The world is lacking in good leadership. The case could be made that this has always been true, that power corrupts, and that to rule over one’s fellow man is unnatural. A recent book about the last Austro-Hungarian emperor, titled “Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy,” does not make that case. In fact, it is a hopeful book, showing that it is possible to act upright in the face of human weakness and treachery. In detailing the life of Charles I of Austria, the author explores the traits that, even in a particularly fallen age, can make one worthy of veneration.
Who was Blessed Charles, or “Blessed Karl” as he is more commonly known in the Catholic world? He was a monarch, yes, and obviously a pious one for him to be well on his way to sainthood. But he was also a family man, and, stranger yet, a humanitarian and a multiculturalist. That is definitely not what you would expect out of a German-speaking ruler in the first half of the 20th century.
One of the great successes of this book is to remind readers, especially American readers, about what went on during World War I. More so now than ever, with Woodrow Wilson having been “canceled,” there is not a simple heuristic to understanding “the war to end all wars.” The various nationalistic feuds and ideologies conflicting on the European continent in the first World War are not as easily simplified as the tagline of the sequel: “Nazis = bad.”
If Americans remember anything from history class about WWI, it is that it was sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. But what happened then, especially in the three years before President Wilson reneged on his campaign boast that he “kept us out of war”? It turns out that Emperor Charles (who only became heir to Austria-Hungary after his uncle Franz Ferdinand’s death) was trying desperately to end the hostilities. He found his counterparts unwilling to listen.
Charles I’s attempts to deescalate the world stage were ultimately so unsuccessful, that politicians in his own lands seized the opportunity to send him and his family into exile. The Habsburgs became personae non gratae in the years to follow, with the Nazi and Communist successor governments leading propaganda efforts to paint the former emperor as a traitor to his people. It is only in recent years, specifically after his beatification by Pope John Paul II in 2004, that the legacy and reputation of “The Peace Emperor” has recovered around the world.
This is to be praised, and it shows the power of goodness and truth. If coordinated totalitarian attacks cannot suppress the memory of a great world leader a hundred years after his death, then perhaps falsehood and deception do not always win out. Reading “Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy” is not only a lesson in history but also a lesson in faith. At the book’s conclusion, Coulombe details the status of the potential saint’s candidacy, and takes a look at his cause around the world. In addition to many groups in areas formally under the Habsburg crown, a particular devotion to Blessed Karl has sprung up in the United States. Why is this? It just may be that people yearn for strong moral leadership, and for a government in which public policy matches up with so-called private piety.
Book Review: ‘The Final Girl Support Group’
Release Date: July 2021
Cozy up on your next snow day and read Gary Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group.
Author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (2020), Grady Hendrix succeeds again in tapping into our favorite horror films to deliver this mystery. Six young women make up the “Final Girl Support Group.” Each survived horrific massacres that have been turned into successful film franchises. Movies such as Friday The 13th and Halloween actually happened in this version of America. Twenty years later the spotlight has moved on and society has found new monsters and victims. Still, these women sit in a circle of chairs in a church basement trying to figure out how to live their lives. Paranoid Lynnette Tarkington reluctantly participates in group therapy sessions with Dr. Carol Elliot along with fellow survivors Marilyn Torres, who has buried her emotions in wealth; Dani Shipman, who might have killed the wrong person; Julia Campbell, whose encounter left her in a wheelchair; and Heather DeLuca, who is succumbing to addiction. Some of them are in denial about what happened. Some still live in terror, always looking over their shoulders, imprisoned by their own fears.
After one member of this vigilant sisterhood is murdered and a series of persistent attacks threaten the rest, Lynnette becomes increasingly suspicious that the attacks are originating way too close to their inner circle. “Does this ever end?” Lynnette asks. “Will there always be someone out there turning little boys into monsters? Will we always be final girls? Will there always be monsters killing us? How do we stop the snake from eating its own tail?” The book is creepy enough on its face, but Hendrix’s use of narrative tools heightens the unease.
The Final Girl Support Group isn’t necessarily scary, but the plot is action-packed and delivers its share of gore. The novel is an ultimately entertaining and inspiring take on horror movies, trauma, and self-determination. Available on Amazon!
Book Review: ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’
I first read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo this past month after my friend and I swapped our favorite summer books. I opened the book one Saturday morning and couldn’t put it down. Despite the fact that it was published nearly five years ago, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo continues to captivate readers’ interest on BookTok, Bookstagram, and Goodreads.
This story is about renowned Hollywood actress Evelyn Hugo who, after decades of blockbuster hits, is now 79 and ready to give an exclusive interview after years of dodging the press. But the only one granted access is a little-known journalist named Monique Grant. Though she can’t understand why she’s been chosen, Monique goes to Evelyn’s home and finds out Evelyn doesn’t just want to do an interview — she wants to lay out every piece of her truth for Monique to write and sell her biography.
Though Evelyn won’t answer why she picked Monique to do the job, Monique agrees and Evelyn’s story begins to unfold from her calculated beginnings in Hollywood to the millions she enjoys in the present, each section of her life titled by each of her seven husbands and her reasons for marrying (and divorcing) them. As you journey through Evelyn’s life, it feels as if you’re being granted exclusive access to something you shouldn’t be seeing. It’s hard to believe the characters and events in this book aren’t real celebrities.
To me, a great book is one that makes you forget you’re reading in the first place, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo does exactly that. It’s an instantly captivating book, thanks in part to the story, but mostly to Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing. Her stories flow smoothly, her characters are complex and realistically flawed, and I happily got lost in the pages until the very end. This is the perfect cozy fall read!
Book Review: ‘Verity’ By Colleen Hoover
Colleen Hoover is all the rage this summer. The author’s 2016 romance novel It Ends With Us gained fame due to the viral nature of #BookTok (the book lover’s community on TikTok). I’ve always loved reading, especially during the summer months by the beach and pool. Surely because of this, my “For You Page” has been flooding with recommendations and reviews as to what to read next. I can without a doubt say that Verity is worth the hype.
Verity was first published in 2018 and has only just become available worldwide in paperback. I started reading Colleen Hoover last summer when I first discovered It Ends With Us on #BookTok and have read four of her other books since. Given that I finished this one in a day, I would say it is extremely readable!
Verity is different from Hoover’s usual style and genre of romance. This novel is twisting, unsettling, creepy, and psychologically mind-bending. From the beginning, I could not put it down. The plot follows protagonist, Lowen Ashleigh, a struggling writer who accepts a job offer to complete the remaining books of an unfinished, successful series. Jeremy Crawford, the husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen due to his wife’s serious injuries. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. With shades of Gillian Flynn blending in with Hoover’s classic take on romance, our protagonist finds herself uncovering a story so horrifying, and all the while, falling for a grieving man. There is a thrilling twist at the end, which I am happy to debate, but I’m not giving any spoilers until you read it for yourself! Overall, I highly recommend the purchase. Find it on Amazon.