My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife


source: purchased
title: My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife A Library of America Special Publication
genre: historical non fiction
published: October 18, 2018 by Library Of America
pages:166
first line: My Dear Julia

about:
The Civil War’s greatest general as you’ve never seen him before—a revealing collection of letters written by Ulysses S. Grant to his wife Julia, introduced by Ron Chernow.

Ulysses S. Grant is justly celebrated as the author of one of the finest military autobiographies ever written, yet many readers of his Personal Memoirs are unaware that during his army years Grant wrote hundreds of intimate and revealing letters to his wife, Julia Dent Grant.

Presented with an introduction by acclaimed biographer Ron Chernow, My Dearest Julia collects more than eighty of these letters, beginning with their engagement in 1844 and ending with the Union victory in 1865. They record Grant’s first experience under fire in Mexico (“There is no great sport in having bullets flying about one in every direction but I find they have less horror when among them than when in anticipation”), the aching homesickness that led him to resign from the peacetime army, and his rapid rise to high command during the Civil War.

Often written in haste, sometimes within the sound of gunfire, his wartime letters vividly capture the immediacy and uncertainty of the conflict. Grant initially hoped for an early conclusion to the fighting, but then came to accept that the war would have no easy end. “The world has never seen so bloody or so protracted a battle as the one being fought,” he wrote from Spotsylvania in 1864, “and I hope never will again.”

my thoughts:
I purchased a copy of My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife this summer while visiting Grant Cottage. This is a collection of 84 letters that Grant wrote to his wife Julia while he was in active service. The letters begin while he and Julia were engaged and he was fighting in the Mexican American War and go on through the Civil War up until his final letter to Julia that he wrote at what is now known as Grant Cottage.

I’m a history buff and I find anything Civil War related to be really interesting. I’m a fan of Ulysses S. Grant, he’s a fascinating historical figure. What makes him a favorite is that when I first started reading and learning more about him, his love for his wife Julia and for his family really stood front and center.

I enjoyed this collection of his letters because they provide a first hand/in real time account of what was going on during these battles. I found it fascinating that Grant was taking the time to write these letters to his wife from battlefields, with everything that was going on around him. I suppose writing to her was therapeutic for him during immensely stressful and scary times. The first letters were written during his 2 year engagement to Julia, and you see him really focusing on her getting her parents permission to marry him and he keeps bringing up his speaking to her father about it. You can tell Grant was worried her family wouldn’t approve of him. As the letters go on they are married with children and the loving tone of the letters is the same, but he’s worried about her and the children and he’s always writing about seeing them, whether Julia can visit him etc. He sends her money he wants her to make sure the children have a good teacher and are learning etc. You see Grant as a father and husband in these letters.

I found this to be a great collection, I’m glad Julia saved the letters. I wish the publisher would have included maybe a note as to where the letters were taking place. I wound up googling certain dates for context. For example, each letter starts with Grant naming the date and place: “Tacabaya Mexico, January 9th 1848”, so I would search dates and places to get an idea of where Grant was at that time and what was going on. I wouldn’t be able to rate someone’s letters, but I’d give this a 5 out of 5 because you get an intimate and interesting glimpse into Grant’s personal life. You also see what a great writer Ulysses S. Grant was. The last letter included is one of Grant’s final ones to Julia when he knew the end was near and it once again shows you how till the very end Grant was all about his family. Do I have a slight Ulysses S. Grant crush? Perhaps.

“I hope dearest that you had a very pleasant trip. I know that you have thought of me very often. I have dreamed of you several times since we parted.” Detroit Michigan April 27th 1849– My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife, p. 65

In going away now I feel as if I had some one else than myself to live and strive and do well for. You can have but little idea of the infulance you have over me Julia, even while so far away.” N. Orleans Barracks La. July 11th 1845– My Dearest Julia p. 19

“I feel proud of the Army at my command. They have marched day and night, without tents and with irregular rations without a murmur of complaints. I write in very great haste.” Grand Gulf Miss. May 3rd 1863– My Dearest Julia p. 121

“The world has never seen so bloody or so protracted a battle as the one being fought and I hope never will again. The enemy were really whipped yesterday but their situation is desperate beyond anything heretofore known. To loose this battle they lose their cause. As bad as it is they have fought for it with a gallantry worthy of a better.” Near Spotsylvania C. H, Va. May 13th 1864 – My Dearest Julia p. 133


++++++++++++++++++++++++

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife.

Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice



source: purchased
title: Interview with the Vampire author: Anne Rice
genre: paranormal horror
published: 1976
pages: 350
first line: “I see…”
rated: 5 out of 5 stars

book blurb:
This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside….




My thoughts: *slight spoilers*
Interview with the Vampire is my favorite vampire novel because it’s beautifully written, dramatic and it really is unforgettable. This was a re-read for me and I enjoyed every minute of it. I can see myself reading it again one day.
There’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said about this one plus I don’t want to include spoilers so I’ll keep my review short and to the point. The story starts off in modern day as Louis de Pointe du Lac is telling his life story starting from New Orleans 1791. He tells of how he met Lestat de Lioncourt who turns him into a vampire and everything that unfolds after this event.

I loved Interview the second time around even more than the first. I had almost forgotten how creepy Claudia was, the descriptions of her were chilling. Louis describes her as a demonic doll at one point. I loved to hate Lestat as usual. He’s so nonchalant about many things yet you see how much he needs Louis although he tries to hide it. The relationship between this little vampire family was intriguing and messed up on many levels.

Anne Rice does a fantastic job at bringing these characters to life to the point where the reader can almost see and hear them. If I had to pick a favorite I think I’d pick Louis because he is so dramatic but because he also tries so hard to hang onto his humanity. He spends so much time searching for answers as to his existence and he feels guilt at having to drink human blood. He loves Claudia and don’t get me started on Armand.

This one is a classic, I’ve only read the first 2 in the Vampire Chronicals but I plan on reading more. And of course the film version is a favorite and was perfectly cast. Have you read this one or seen the movie?

“It was as if all figures walked and talked on the desolate home of my damned soul.” p.77, Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

“For I was so attuned to her; I loved her so completely; she was so much the companion of my waking hour, the only companion that I had, other than death.”p.105, Interview With the Vampire

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice.

Later by Stephen King


source: purchased
title: Later
author: Stephen King
published: March 2, 2021
pages: 264
genre: crime fiction/paranormal horror first line: I don’t like to start with an apology-there’s probably even a rule against it, like never ending a sentence with a preposition-but after reading over the thirty pages I’ve written so far, I feel like I have to.
rated:
5 out of 5 stars

Blurb:

SOMETIMES GROWING UP MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine—as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel It, LATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.


My thoughts:

Out of the hundred or so books on my TBR I randomly grabbed my copy of Later by Stephen King and wound up nearly finishing it in one sitting this past Sunday.

Although this is advertised as one of his hard case crime books like Joyland and The Colorado Kid I’d say Later is more a mix of coming of age story, horror and a paranormal ghost story. Inside this book were some of the creepiest scenes I’ve read and I’ve read a decent amount of horror over the years.

The story centers around young Jamie Conklin who lives in NYC with his single mother who is a literary agent. Adult Jamie narrates his story. He has an ability that sets him apart. Without giving too much away, the book revolves around Jamie and his mom while his unique gift is at times an odd blessing in disguise but also a curse. King has a way of writing child characters who are endearing to the reader and I was rooting for Jamie as I read. The story is really mainly about him.

Reminiscent of the film The Sixth Sense Later was an engaging and thrilling story that I found hard to put down. There’s nods to It in the storyline and the creepy plot twisted and turned and shocked me more than once. I also enjoyed the NYC setting. While I read some mixed reviews on this one, I really enjoyed it. I was entertained throughout and nearly finished it in one sitting which is what I expect from a good book. This was a solid scary read and I recommend it to fans of paranormal horror. It was not too long at just a little over 250 pages so it was a nice quick dose of horror during a busy week.

“I thought of asking her if it freaked her out to look up at night and see the stars and know they go on forver and ever, but didn’t bother. I just said no. You get used to marvelous things. You take them for granted. You can try not to but you do. there’s too much wonder, that’s all. It’s everywhere.-p 90, Later by Stephen King

About the author:
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.

King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King’s books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald’s Game and It.

King was the recipient of America’s prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine. -quoted from Amazon.com

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of Later by Stephen King. Some of these links are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. The first book photo here is my own.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah



source: purchased
title: The Four Winds
author: Kristin Hannah
genre: historical fiction
pages: 464
published: February 2, 2021
first line: Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love.
rated: 5 out of 5 stars

Blurb:
The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it―the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.-quoted from Amazon

My thoughts:
The Four Winds was my first foray into author Kristin Hannah’s work and it won’t be my last. I picked this one up after seeing a few book bloggers rave about it.

This book was my vacation read last week and I was transported as I read. I could not put it down, reading as many as 200 pages in one day which is alot for me since I usually tap out at maybe 100 pages a day.

Without giving too much away, the story takes place during the 1930’s Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The book centers around Elsa Wolcott who by age 25 has been written off by her family as an old maid. She is born in Texas to a well off family since her father owns a tractor business. Elsa loves to read and wants to have fun and be a flapper and become a writer one day. Everything changes for her and she becomes a mom and suffers through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. With themes of family, motherhood, the bonds women form, poverty and American life during the 1920’s and 30’s this was an epic story that utterly drew me in. I could not turn the pages fast enough.

The author writes about the Dust Bowl and the storms so vividly I could easily imagine it. Of course while reading I had to google the Dust Bowl to familiarize myself with the details and I was shocked at what I learned and what so many people suffered at that time. The images of these dust storms look like something out of a nightmare. The dust from the Plains region even reached up as far as Washington DC and New York City at one point. The author paints such a vivid picture of what people went through at that time and of the poverty people suffered that it both shocks you and pulls at your heartstrings as you read.

Kristin Hannah’s descriptive writing style and the way she shaped these characters had me enthralled. I felt for them and I wanted them to be alright. The relationships within the story are what grab ahold of you as you read. Elsa is a good mother trying to survive it all and take care of her children. The people she meets who are going through similar struggles become like family to her. This is a story about strong women and about surviving against all odds and pushing forward no matter what.

The Four Winds is definitely one of my top reads for 2021 and I highly recommend it if you are looking to get swept away into a well written historical family saga. Have a box of tissues handy.
As per the photo below, my reading view last week was perfect. I’m so glad I chose The Four Winds as my vacation book. Have you read this one?



“Books had always been her solace; novels gave her the space to be bold, brave, beautiful, if only in her own imagination.”– p14, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

“Heartache had been a part of her life so long it had become as familiar as the color of her hair or the slight curve in her spine. Sometimes it was the lens through which she viewed her world and sometimes it was the blindfold she wore so she didn’t see.”- p.117, The Four Winds

“Love is what remains when everything else is gone.” -p.425, The Four Winds

++++++++++++++++++++++++

About the author:
Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week.-quoted from Amazon


++++++++++++++++++++++++

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of The Four Winds. Some of these links are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. The book photo here is my own.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

source: purchased
title: A Head Full of Ghosts
author: Paul Tremblay
published: May 2016
genre: horror
pages: 285
first line: This must be so difficult for you, Meredith.
rated: 5 out of 5 stars

Blurb:
A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror, reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

My thoughts:
I purchased A Head Full of Ghosts because I wanted to dive into something scary. This was my first time reading Paul Tremblay and the premise looked good. Plus, this is what Stephen King said about this book: “A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare”. If that’s not a horror recommendation I don’t know what is.

The book centers around twenty-something Merry Barrett as she tells a writer named Rachel the story of what happened to her family when she was just eight years old. Rachel is going to write a book on the Barretts. When Merry was eight her fourteen year old sister Marjorie started exhibiting symptoms of demonic possession. The Barrett family was having financial difficulties at the time because the dad John Barrett lost his job. When Marjorie begins acting strange it puts a strain on the entire family. She was talking in bizarre and weird voices, cursing and having erratic outbursts.

After treatments from the doctor didn’t work, the family obtained help from the Catholic church. After observing Marjorie, Father Wanderly got permission to perform an exorcism. On top of all this, the Barrett’s got a tv documentary deal so there was a film crew living in their home for a few weeks filming the family daily. The Barrett’s agreed to the documentary which aired weekly and made them somewhat infamous because they needed the money. The exorcism is aired on tv.

I enjoyed how the author pulled me in here, Merry tells a terrifying story and I was on the edge of my seat while reading. She’s an endearing character and you want her to be okay but she is an unreliable narrator so you never truly know what happened.
I wondered where Paul Tremblay would go with the story because halfway through I started thinking this book could easily start to resemble a retelling of The Exorcist which is of my favorite horror novels. I was not disappointed. This one does throw nods to The Exorcist but manages to remain original.

The book culminates into a nice cringeworthy twist at the end that left me speechless. The twist is what seals the deal. I also enjoyed how the book plays with you a little as you read, you never really know what is truly going on. I wondered whether Marjorie was really possessed or mentally ill or maybe both. I feared for Merry and her interactions with her older sister in that state were scary but also sad. Merry idolized her older sister like most little sisters do. I also really enjoyed the whole reality tv twist to the story due to the documentary about the family being filmed.

A Head Full of Ghosts was fantastic horror and I recommend it to fans of the genre. This one is not for the faint of heart some of the scenes are shocking. Ugh, the basement scenes. I wanted to hide under the covers.


“In a way, my personal history not being my own, being literally and figuratively haunted by outside forces, is almost as horrible as what actually happened. Almost.”- A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

I sneak into your room when you are asleep, Merry-monkey. I’ve been doing it for weeks now, since the end of summer. You’re so pretty when you’re asleep. Last night, I pinched your nose shut until you opened your little mouth and gasped.”- A Head Full of Ghosts



++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
. Some of the links in the post are affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission.