I’m joining Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading or working on this past month.
Season Of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Catherine Doherty
Synopsis: A guide to entering into the mystery and celebration of Lent and Easter. Catherine Doherty leads us into the riches of God s boundless mercy as she teaches us the spirit, the liturgy, and the customs of the Lent and Easter season, including: Practical guidance on preparing for the internal spiritual pilgrimage that is Lent. Meditations on the meanings of the many holy days preceding and following Easter. Traditions and customs will help your family live the holiness of the Easter season. After-dinner talks by Catherine Doherty, spiritual readings around the dining room table on the spirit, liturgy and customs of Lent, Holy Week, the Easter Triduum and Paschaltide. Catherine speaks on such topics as how to Prepare for Lent; Why Fasting; The Motive is Love; Sin, Repentance, Conversion. Also on Palm (Passion) Sunday; Holy Week; Holy Thursday: Priesthood and Eucharist; Good Friday; Holy Saturday: Christ s Descent into Hades; and Christ is Risen! Then Paschaltime and Christ’s Ascension, Pentecost. A rich tapestry of scriptural reflections and Customs and Traditions to bring it all to life! Excellent for personal and group study. A wonderful resource for preachers and teachers! Volume one of this series is Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas Meditations and Traditions by Catherine Doherty also available.
My review: This is another favorite of mine that’s perfect for Lent and Easter. Highly recommend. 5/5.
33 Days to Morning Glory, A Do-it-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley
Synopsis: From Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, author of the bestselling book Consoling the Heart of Jesus, comes an extraordinary 33-day journey to Marian consecration with four giants of Marian spirituality:
St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed John Paul II. Fr. Michael masterfully summarizes their teaching, making it easy to grasp and simple enough to put into practice. More specifically, he weaves their thought into a user-friendly, do-it-yourself retreat that will bless even the busiest of people. So, if you’ve been thinking about entrusting yourself to Mary for the first time or if you’re simply looking to deepen and renew your devotion to her, 33 Days to Morning Glory is the right book to read and the perfect retreat to make.
My review: Last month, I re-consecrated myself to Our Lady on the Feast of the Annunciation and used this book for preparation. It’s easy to read and follow, and Fr. Mike gives excellent quotes and information from St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Mother Teresa, and St. John Paul II. Highly recommend. 5/5.
The Demon of Brownsville Road by Bob Cranmer and Erica Manfred
Synopsis: October 1988: Bob Cranmer buys a house in the Pittsburgh suburb he grew up in. He has no idea that his dream home is about to become his worst nightmare…
The Cranmers seemed fated to own the house at 3406 Brownsville Road. As a young boy, Bob had been drawn to the property, and, just when the family decided to move back to Brentwood, it went up for sale. Without a second thought, they purchased the house that Bob had always dreamed of owning.
But soon, the family began experiencing strange phenomena—objects moving on their own, ghostly footsteps, unsettling moaning sounds—that gradually increased in violence, escalating to physical assaults and, most disturbingly, bleeding walls. Bob, Lesa, and their four children were under attack from a malicious demon that was conjuring up terrifying manifestations to destroy their tight-knit household. They had two choices: leave or draw on their unwavering faith to exorcise the malicious fiend who haunted their home.
Now, Bob Cranmer recounts the harrowing true story of the evil presence that tormented his family and the epic spiritual war he fought to save everything he held dear…
My review: I heard of this book while watching a documentary on a Catholic website. It’s a chilling and horrifying account of a demon who inhabited the house that, among other things, was used for illegal abortions in the 1920s. It’s not a book you want to read right before bed, but it is an excellent illustration that demons do, in fact, exist, and they thrive on man’s choice to sin. Recommend. 4/5.
The Cases that Haunt Us by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Synopsis: America’s foremost expert on criminal profiling provides his uniquely gripping analysis of seven of the most notorious murder cases in the history of crime — from the Whitechapel murders to JonBenet Ramsey — often contradicting conventional wisdom and legal decisions.
Jack the Ripper. Lizzie Borden. The Zodiac Killer. Certain homicide cases maintain an undeniable, almost mystical hold on the public imagination. They touch a nerve deep within us because of the personalities involved, their senseless depravity, the nagging doubts about whether justice was done, or because, in some instances, no suspect has ever been identified or caught.
In The Cases That Haunt Us, twenty-five-year-FBI-veteran John Douglas, profiling pioneer and master of modern criminal investigative analysis, and author and filmmaker Mark Olshaker, the team behind the bestselling Mindhunter series, explore the tantalizing mysteries that both their legions of fans and law enforcement professionals ask about most. Among the questions they tackle:
Was Jack the Ripper actually the Duke of Clarence, eldest grandson of Queen Victoria, or perhaps a practicing medical doctor? And did highly placed individuals within Scotland Yard have a good idea of the Ripper’s identity, which they never revealed? Douglas and Olshaker create a detailed profile of the killer, and reveal their chief suspect.
Was Lizzie Borden truly innocent of the murder of her father and stepmother as the Fall River, Massachusetts, jury decided, or was she the one who took the ax and delivered those infamous “whacks”? Through a minute-by-minute behavioral analysis of the crime, the authors come to a convincing conclusion.
Did Bruno Richard Hauptmann single-handedly kidnap the baby son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the most famous couple in the world, or was he an innocent man caught up and ultimately executed in a relentless rush to judgment in the “crime of the century”?
What kind of person could kill six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey on Christmas night in her own home? Douglas was called in on the case shortly after the horrifying murder, and his conclusions are hard-hitting and controversial. Why, in the face of the majority of public, media, and law enforcement opinion, including former FBI colleagues, does Douglas believe that John and Patricia Ramsey did not murder their daughter? And what is the forensic and behavioral evidence he brings to bear to make his claim?
Taking a fresh and penetrating look at each case, the authors reexamine and reinterpret accepted facts and victimology using modern profiling and the techniques of criminal analysis developed by Douglas within the FBI. This book deconstructs the evidence and widely held beliefs surrounding each case and rebuilds them — with fascinating and haunting results.
My review: Because reading is part of my job, when I read for pleasure, it’s usually one of my guilty pleasures: true crime. This is one of the best books I’ve read on these unsolved cases (perhaps the best), especially regarding the Lizzie Borden case. The author, whose expertise in criminal profiling led to the Behavioral Analysis Unit at the FBI (on which the show Criminal Minds is based), analyzes all the evidence and gives us a profile of the killer. Fascinating step-by-step of how a profiler would take the evidence in each case and offer an accurate description of the Unknown Subject (UNSUB). Highly recommend. 5/5.
And Round Me Slays the Dark (Shadows of the Sun #6) by Mina Ambrose
Synopsis: New from Full Quiver Publishing! The sixth and final book of the Shadows of the Sun series. Jude is on the run again, this time not only from the mad doctor and his henchmen; there is also an over-zealous and determined police officer on his track.
Robert Anderson, Oregon State Trooper of heretofore exemplary reputation, is out to defend his honor and that of his squad from those who would doubt their sanity and would relegate him, as the officer in charge, to the bottom rung of the career ladder—or evict him from the force.
All because of an apparently unassuming young vagrant, who, he is convinced, somehow erased crucial minutes from their memories. True to his local fame as Master of Puzzles, Anderson puts his logical mind and his detective skills to work to track down this enigma and call him to account.
Jude manages to keep one jump ahead of his enemies’ mad pursuit, leading them in a wild chase across the country and back again, until they all converge on Mara’s hometown, and the Group is called into play.
He finds himself, against all odds, facing the mad doctor once more, to save Phaedra—and himself.
You Don’t Own Me by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
Amazon Synopsis: Television producer Laurie Moran recently became engaged to her investigative television show’s former host, Alex Buckley, and since then, the two have been happily planning a summer wedding, preparing for Alex’s confirmation to a federal judicial appointment, and searching for the perfect New York City home for their new life together.
But then Laurie is approached by Robert and Cynthia Bell, parents of Dr. Martin Bell, a physician who was shot dead as he pulled into the driveway of his Greenwich Village carriage house five years ago. The Bells are sure that Martin’s disgraced and erratic wife, Kendra, carried out the murder. Determined to prove Kendra’s guilt and win custody over their grandchildren, they plead with Laurie to feature their son’s case on Under Suspicion, ensuring her that Kendra is willing to cooperate.
As Laurie dives into the case, she learns that Martin wasn’t the picture-perfect husband, father, and doctor he appeared to be and was carrying secrets of his own. And what does the web of lies ensnaring the Bell family have to do with a dangerous stranger, who gazes at Laurie from afar and thinks, She is actually quite a lovely girl, I’m sure she’s going to be missed…?
My review: I’m a long-time fan of the late Mary Higgins Clark (God, rest her soul), and in the past ten years or so, I haven’t found her books to be as good as her earlier works of the 80s and 90s. However, she began working with another author a few years back. This one is supposed to be Book 4 in a series, but I picked this up at a local bookshop because I had a gift card. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the characters were well-developed, and the plot kept me guessing until the end. 4/5. Recommend.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Synopsis: For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle’s dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.
My review: This is another excellent true crime book, but it’s written with richer language than the usual non-fiction book. I would call this more of a true crime memoir. The author didn’t live to see the Golden State Killer’s eventual capture by genealogical DNA, but her book is a comprehensive retelling of the history of the crimes and her own search and obsession to bring him to justice. Recommend. 4/5.