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

GoodReads Summary:
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.
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper LeeReview:
Furious Hours was the book club pick for the few local ladies I’ve made friends with and read with each month. It’s not something I would normally pick up of my own volition. If I read non-fiction its usually memoirs. The true-crime I read has been all because of book club. I actually read To Kill a Mockingbird last month for one of my college classes. I don’t think I would have liked this book at all if I hadn’t already read it.
This book is told in three parts. Part one follows the Reverend who is thought to have killed six people in order to collect their life insurance. But no one was ever able to prove it or take any legal action. His life ends at the funeral of his stepdaughter when one of her relatives shoots him three times and kills him. This man is arrested, then hires the lawyer that the Reverend had used to fight the insurance companies to get his money.
Part two of the book follows the lawyer. This was the part that I had the most trouble with. It goes over the lawyer’s whole history. His political goals and attempts to be elected in several elections. I found myself wondering what the point of his part was and why he was given a whole section of this book. His life history was not needed. I understand his role in the story but it was not deserving of an entire third of this book. When we finally get to the part where the lawyer is defending the man that killed the Reverend, the story picks up again. I really enjoyed the process that the lawyer takes to make sure to win the court trial. It was really interesting to see his process and the things he did to win.
The third and final part is where we finally got to the details about Harper Lee. I only enjoyed learning more about her life because I’d actually read her book. From a writer’s point of view, it was really interesting to read about her publication journey and then absolutely terrifying to see her completely fail to write another book.
Overall, I liked parts of this book and didn’t understand the inclusion of other parts. It was a mostly interesting book that was written well enough like a story for me to enjoy. If you like true crime and/or Harper Lee, you might like this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

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Summary:
On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.
Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.
The Library BookReview:
The Library Book was my book club pick for May/June (we’re not the greatest at reading the book in one month and meeting before the month is over hah!) I was really intrigued by the synopsis of this book. I’d never heard about the Los Angeles Library fire which was a little surprising considering it was the biggest library fire in the United States. Though after reading this book, I found out why it’s not as well-known as I thought it might be.
Sadly, I wanted to like this book more than I did. While I did learn a lot about the L.A. Library fire (it burned for 7 hours and 36 minutes), I found it to be repetitive with a very unsatisfying ending. Part of me assumed we would be trying to figure out the mystery of who set the fire (because it was deemed as arson) and that was not the case. I felt like there was a lot of information that wasn’t really necessary to the story. The chapters jumped around between current day, the history of L.A.’s librarians, the fire, and other various topics. The story was a bit boring at times, but I’m glad to have read it because I feel like I learned so much about something I never knew previously.
I would like to mention that Orlean’s writing was INCREDIBLE. I actually cried as I was reading the parts about when the fire was actually happening. She really knew how to pull me in and use descriptions to make me feel all the things. The Library Book was full of nostalgia for me. It talks about going to the library as a kid and then rekindling that love for the library as an adult and it was really relatable because I’ve always had a special connection with the library. The author made me want to change my college degree from English to Library Science. She makes being a librarian sound like so much fun.
Overall, this wasn’t my favorite non-fiction that I’ve read, but I learned a lot and mostly had a good time. There were things I liked and things that I didn’t, but if you’re looking to learn about libraries and the Los Angeles Public Library fire of 1986, this is the book for you.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson

GoodReads Summary:
The Trial of Lizzie Borden tells the true story of one of the most sensational murder trials in American history. When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 1892, the arrest of the couple’s younger daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence. Was she a cold-blooded murderess or an unjustly persecuted lady? Did she, or didn’t she?
The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central enigmatic character has endured for more than one hundred years. Immortalized in rhyme, told and retold in every conceivable genre, the murders have secured a place in the American pantheon of mythic horror, but one typically wrenched from its historical moment. In contrast, Cara Robertson explores the stories Lizzie Borden’s culture wanted and expected to hear and how those stories influenced the debate inside and outside of the courtroom. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper accounts, unpublished local accounts, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden offers a window onto America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties.
The Trial of Lizzie BordenReview:
I received this book as an ARC thanks to NetGalley. I was very excited to read this because I am actually distantly related to Lizzie Borden. So, I was really interested in reading a book about her history. Sadly, this book was a bit hard for me to get through. I found the material dry because it was filled with a majority of direct quotes from research and not a lot of storytelling. I thought I was going to get more of a true crime novel in a storytelling format, but instead, I got a whole lot of info dumping via quotes and dialogue. I was also disappointed with the “new information” that wasn’t really anything solid. I thought there was going to be this big reveal when really, we were just told that there’s more information out there but we don’t know what it is and will likely never have access to it. Overall, I feel like I learned a lot while reading, but I didn’t enjoy the reading experience.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

GoodReads Summary:
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

Review:
I picked this audiobook to listen to purely because it fulfills the Muggle Studies – A muggle non-fiction novel O.W.L. Exam for the Magical Readathon that I am participating in this month. I don’t frequently pick up non-fiction novels on my own for pleasure reading. Generally, if I read non-fiction it’s for one of my college courses, so this was a little bit outside of my normal reading choice.
I’ve loved Amy Poehler since I first saw her while watching Parks and Recreation. Leslie Knope is hilarious and Amy plays her wonderfully. So this opportunity to learn more about who she really is, not who she is as a character, was too fun.
I absolutely love that Amy is the one that reads this book. After watching so much of her on Parks & Rec I could totally picture her reading the story to me. She made it so much fun with her reading as well as the different guest stars she also had come in and read a few chapters. I loved that she made it so fun. It was more of a story than some non-fiction that I’ve read. It was actually more a collection of shorter stories throughout her life.
I learned a lot about Amy and some of it really surprised me while some of it did not. For example, I was surprised to learn that she was born and raised in Massachusetts (this is where I grew up and lived for most of my life) so all of the stories that she shared of her growing up really were some that I could relate to because I grew up similarly (even though we grew up in different times). I also loved seeing how growing up where she did affected her throughout her life – forever referencing the Boston accent she got rid of when she moved away.
I really enjoyed getting to know Amy Poehler in this book. I think I enjoyed it even more because Amy read it to us herself. It was hilarious and entertaining and I loved every minute of it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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