Saturday, March 27, 2021

Killers of the Flower Moon review


The first David Grann book I read was The Lost City of Z, which was an odd story but still very, very well written and good. I am currently on a true crime kick and I am looking to learn more about the history of the indigenous people in the US so this book was right up my alley.

This book details the conspiracy against the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, a group of people whose land was wealthy with oil deposits. He specifically focuses on a family that dies in ones in twos, by poisonings, gun shots and bombs and is a true story set in the early 1900's. These efforts weren't limited to this particular family however.  Other members of the Osage nation were experiencing similar issues. Years pass without the murders being solved and the rest of America started to take notice. The Osage were well known on the national level - their oil had made them wealthy but the US government didn't think that they were capable of managing their own wealth so a law was passed requiring them to have guardians. They were also targeted by outlaws and theives who wanted to steal their land and wealth. The headrights were also extremely valuable and their existence is what led to the murders of the Osage, in the hope that they would then be passed on.

The FBI actually became involved in the case, helping to investigate and declare victory in the murders. In so declaring victory, the magnitude of the headright killings was obscured at worst, and minimized at best. Scholars think that the number that the FBI declared (24) was actually quite low. I loved this book and it is a necessary and intriguing read.  You can find the book here (amazon link).

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno - Garcia

 This book was my Book of the Month Club selection (if you're interested in a membership, please do me a favor and sign up on this link , thank you!).  I had heard rumblings of it in other places, all good, so I opted for it and it was totally worth it.

Noemi is the main character and her cousin, Catalina, has written a strange letter to their family from her home, where she has gone to live after marrying. She claims to see ghosts, that the walls of the house are alive and that her husband, Virgil, is poisoning her. Noemi leaves Mexico City, where she is enjoying wealth and attention, to go to the countryside, still suffering an economic depression after the collapse of the local economy (specifically a mine owned by Virgil's family). Noemi meets the Doyles, Virgil's family, and learns that they are so "Anglo" they brought over earth and people from England based upon the mistaken belife that it will make them successful. There is nastiness, rot, mold and mushrooms everywhere and slime seems to ooze from the walls, Ghostbuster style. Noemi is prohibited from talking to Catalina a whole lot, and is not allowed trips into town or to talk at dinner.  It's utterly bizarre.

As Noemi spends more time at the house, her dreams become odd too - she dreams of a woman with a gold face, a scary Virgil and dread.  The dread never really goes away.  

This novel touches on everything from race, to class and gender. There are interesting conversations related to eugenics and inbreeding and economics. There are issues related to loss of agency as well.  And we're always wondering what is lurking in the spaces. Definitely a must read.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Hell in the Heartland by Jax Miller


For what I do for work, some may be very surprised to learn that I'm a True Crime addict.  But I am. I'm fascinated.  I picked up this book, in continuing my trend of reading books about unsolved or fascinating cases. Jax Miller didn't start out as a true crime writer - in fact, she wrote fiction before this book. 

In December of 1999, two 16 year old girls - Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible - were having a sleepover at Ashley's home in rural Oklahoma. The next morning, the two girls were missing, the Freeman trailer was in flames and the bodies of Ashle's parents, the only other two people in the trailer apart from the girls, were found at the site. Lauria and Ashley haven't been seen since. Jax heard about this cold case in 2015 and travelled to Oklahoma in an effort to see if she could assist in solving the cold case and helping to find the girls. 

This story isn't just about two missing girls - it's about policing and the drug crisis (specifically methamphetamine use, cooking and dealing - think Breaking Bad).  There were two prevailing theories that came out quite clearly in the book and Jax does a great job presenting both theories. Ultimately, Lauria and Ashley (or their bodies) are still missing and we still don't really know what happened to them or why. The rural community that they disappeared from is also a major player in this book and is very, very grimly painted by Jax. Ashley's older brother, Shane, was killed by local law enforcement and her father was involved in the drug trade.  Meth use and cooking had taken a strong hold of the area and showed no sign of letting up. People worked extremely hard and were still subject to poverty and struggles in making ends meet. Jax also treats the case with compassion and kindness and empathy. It would have been extremely easy to be coldly distant in describing what happened and what was going on with the case, but she didn't.  She was warm and compassionate and that earned her a lot of trust with the families and people that she was dealing with.

This is a great book and highly recommended.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Jumping on the bandwagon

 There are so many beginning of the year posts every year a t this time and I love them all.  I think that this year, the hopefulness of them is perhaps more important than in any other year.  I, like many, have goals that I want to accomplish this year.  These are some:

1. Although my Goodreads 2021 list says 75 books for the year, I would like to read 100.  That's like two a week.  Totally doable for me. I think. At the very least, it's something to aim for.

2. I would like to hike four more 4 thousand footers this year: Tecumseh, Garfield and "Fliberty" AKA Flume/Liberty.  

3. In keeping with number two, I am going to start running more consistently.  I run about 3 times a week but aiming for 5 times a week is my ideal. AT the very least, I will be training 6-7 days a week in some way by doing a combo of running and HIIT workouts at home.  I may even invest in a Peloton.

4. Journalling everyday.  It would be a good stress relief for  me.

What are your resolutions or goals this year?

Saturday, January 2, 2021

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

 I didn't hear about Israel Keyes until I became obsessed with the Maura Murray case. I then began listening to a True Crime podcast about him - True Crime Bull*** - and was hooked. So when I got some giftcards from Amazon, I knew that I was going to get this book.

I absolutely devoured it. Israel murdered all over the country - he had kill kits buried in various "hotspots" and we likely don't know exactly how many murders he's ultimately responsible for. We know there's a minimum of 11, but there could be more.  This book is about Keyes and his murders - a little bit about his growing up.  Initially, it seemed that the investigators were cooperative with Callahan and gave her access to an unprecedented amount of their files.  It also seemed like they stopped that cooperation ended at some point. 

This book provides some insight into the mind of a serial killer.  Keyes had no rhyme or reason to who he went after, except that he wouldn't target children.  He was a contractor so he was able to keep an astonishingly low profile for years. He killed solely for the thirll of it and the power of it, which is what truly makes him scary, even among the company he keeps. I'm not sure why he allowed himself to be caught, unless he really wanted to be caught and wanted to play cat and mouse with the FBI.  It's not a secret that he ultimately committed suicide while in custody, which was the ultimate act of control. 

At the end of the day, this book is phenomenal and I flew through it.  It was well researched and well written.  It also provides a decent bibliography at the end, if you're interested in continuing to read about Keyes, serial killers and true crime.  Definitely a good read and definitely a good way to start the reading year. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Anxious People by Frederick Bachman

 I heard about this book from a person that I follow on TikTok actually, which is quite a random place to find book recommendations.  Fredrik Backman actually wrote A Man Called Ove, which I suspect is more well known here because there was a movie made about it.I haven't read that book, but now am interested.

This book is set in a small Swedish town a few days before New Year's Eve. A distraught parent, seeking to get rent money, attempts to rob a bank and fails miserably.  As the bank robber realizes that their options are slowly running out, the robber runs across the street to an apartment showing and unintentionally turns it into a hostage situation. There are eight people in the apartment and they interact with the bank robber and each other during the course of this mystery, most of which occurs in the apartment during the so-called hostage situation. There are two police officers involved in staking out the hostage situation while the investigators from Stockholm are on their way - Jim and Jack, father and son.

I loved this book. It deals with things like "Stockholm Syndrome" - where the hostages bond with their captor.  It also deals with the anxieties that all of us have, some of which really struck home for me in a way that I cried and laughed and cringed. Perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates the importance of empathy towards our fellow human beings. I loved this book and will be giving it another read. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This novel could not have come out at a more opportune time.  By the same author that wrote The Mothers, Brit Bennett hits it out of the park with this one. This novel spans at least three generations and takes on a whole of complicated topics: racial identity, bigotry, sexual identity, gender identity, passing.  Nothing is off topic here and it was amazing. 

The book spans a number of decades as well - from the 1940's to the 1990's -and follows Stella and Desiree Vignes.  Desiree and Stella are twins that were born and raised in Mallard, Louisiana, a town founded by their great grandfather, who wanted an oasis for light skinned black people like him. I think he conceived it as a place where he could be safe and successful; however, it doesn't help. The twins see their father beaten and lynched, their mother struggling in poverty and their own futures becoming more and more impoverished if they stay in Mallard. The twins, within the few pages, take off to New Orleans together, but then split apart - Desiree marries the darkest man she can find and Stella lives as a white woman. 

I absolutely loved this book and the issues that it took on. It's well written and kept me curious, not only about the characters, but about the issues that it presented - including issues of passing, racism, sexuality and class.  Highly recommended.

Killers of the Flower Moon review

  The first David Grann  book I read was The Lost City of Z , which was an odd story but still very, very well written and good. I am curren...