Thursday, December 7, 2017

Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (2017)

When the Osage people were pushed off their land, they were relocatd to an area that turned out to have oil and they become quite wealthy. But in the early 1920s a rash of murders swept through the community, and efforts to investigate and bring those responsible to justice were thwarted. Finally, the organization that came to be known as the FBI, run by J. Edgar Hoover, got involved. Some murderers were caught, but it also turned out that the extent of the crimes went beyond what was previously suspected.

Grann starts his book with the story of the murder of Anna Brown, who was shot in the head. Another sister, along with her husband, was killed in a fiery explosion. Still another sister was slowly being poisoned until she went to the hospital where she was out of the reach of her husband. Many Osage women were married to white men, and it becomes clear that many of these men were playing a long game to get their hands on their wives' wealth. It was a huge conspiracy, with so many players involved it was almost impossible to stop it. Doctors, members of law enforcement, and other community leaders were themselves involved, so there was nobody victims or their families could turn to. When someone got close to solving the crime or implicating someone, they too were killed.

It's a story about a rash of crimes, but also about white supremacy. The government had promised the Osage they could stay on their land in Kansas, but when white settlers came in demanding the land, they were moved. (Among these white settlers? The Ingalls family. Now I'm even more interested to read Prairie Fires, which I think talks about this more.) American Indians weren't allowed to have control over their own finances, but were appointed white guardians. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Killers of the Flower Moon is a thorough examination of a piece of history I knew nothing about, told in an engaging narrative style. I know pitifully little about America's indigenous people and the ways in which white people have destroyed their culture and communities, and this was a fascinating glimpse into one small piece of that history. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Top Ten Bookish Settings I'd Love To Visit


Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today we're thinking about book settings we'd love to visit - how fun!

1. Hogwarts
Obviously.

2. Regency England
But I wouldn't want to live there.

3. West Egg, 1920s
I like a good party, and 20s fashion.

4. 19th century Russia
I've been to Russia, but man it's different now!

5. Lyra's Oxford
I just want a daemon, to be honest.

6. The small English villages where Helen Simonson's books take place.
They're so cozy and filled with people I'd love to spend time with.

7. Manningsport, NY
From the Kristin Higgins Blue Heron series, and I don't just want to visit, I want to live there.

8. The cold places: Alaska, Antarctica, etc
I know that's more than one place, but I can't remember which books take place in which settings, I just like the cold climates. Again, I wouldn't want to actually live there.

9. The far future world of The Power where women are in charge
I know it's still oppressive, but as a woman it would be a refreshing change

10. The fictional version of pioneer America
Look, I know that the real Ingalls family weren't the paragon of virtue that Wilder tried to convince us they were, and that they were among those who pushed indigenous people off their land. So I consider her idealistic world a fictional one, and I would like to visit it.

This was hard, because so many of the settings I read about - especially the ones that play such an important part in a story - tend to be either dystopias or set in wartime, and those are places I definitely don't want to ever go to.

What bookish places would you like to visit?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday Knitting

I'm in Maine for my family's late Thanksgiving this weekend, and I finished the body of my sweater.



It looks terribly rumpled and there are loose ends everywhere, but you get the idea.

I'm very happy to be this close to finishing this seemingly endless project! I mean, it's not that close really, I've got two sleeves and a hood to knit now.

I tried it on to make sure the armholes were large enough and they seem fine. The sweater itself is a bit long, but I find that they tend to stretch horizontally which makes them a little shorter, so it should be fine. And if it's not fine, at least it will be finished and I can move on to something else.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Novemer wrap-up and plans for December


Reading


Middlemarch. Still, always, feels like I've been reading it forever. I like it though. I also had the good fortune to score a galley of Chris Bohjalian's forthcoming novel, The Flight Attendant, which I loved. (I haven't posted about it yet because it won't be published until March, so I'm trying to hold off until a little closer to that time.)

Reading Challenge List: Nothing.

CBAM: Nothing. This month's book is The Brothers Karamazov, which I read in college and liked but don't need to read again. Especially while I'm reading Middlemarch.

Romance: I read both The Proposal by Mary Balogh and Hate To Want You by Alisha Rai, both of which were quite good and rather different from other romances I've read.

Nonfiction: I'm having a sudden burst of wanting to just read all the nonfiction, so I grabbed a few different ones from the library. I just finished Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, which was fascinating and horrifying.


Listening

Someone got a new winter coat.

Last month I started listening to the new Pink album, Beautiful Trauma, and I haven't stopped yet. Now I have tickets to see her perform in April!

While waiting for the new season of the podcast By the Book, I decided to go back and listen to more episodes of Invisibilia, a fascinating podcast about human behavior and psychology. 

My only audiobook this month was The Power by Naomi Alderman, which was excellent.

Watching


The Good Place! And as much as I was never interested in The Great British Baking Show, I impulsively watched an episode and now I'm hooked on that. And I want to bake all the things, but my oven is being kind of a jerk these days.

Knitting


My tv-watching is ramping up a bit, which is great for my knitting. I've made a lot of progress on the front of my sweater. I haven't done a knitting post in a while - sorry! Hopefully I'll get it together to do one soon.

I also started a new cross stitch project, but I can't do that while watching tv. I worked on it a bit while listening to The Power and some of my podcasts. 

Eating


Everything, all the things, all the time. The month culminated with Thanksgiving, so. Our was very low-key. Eric cooked and one of my friends came over so it was just the three of us. We managed to eat a lot of food and drink a lot of wine. A couple of days before I tried to bake cookies for one of our desserts and managed to both burn and undercook them at the same time. (Mary Berry would have been so disappointed.) I mean, we ate them anyway, because cookies.

Doing

Owl Incognito by Ohotaq Mikkigak

A rather exciting local election took place, and I was a bit focused on that early in the month. It turned out quite well for my candidates!

We had some work done at our house, including getting new front steps and a new retaining wall in the backyard so the neighbor's house won't slide down the hill into our yard. Yay, masonry!

I visited the Museum of Fine Arts for the first time in quite a while. I really need to not go so long between visits again. One of the major exhibits right now is art by Takashi Murakami, which was great, but I also really enjoyed a small exhibit of Inuit Art. The photo to the right is a piece from that exhibit.

Plans for December


We're going to Maine this coming weekend to have Thanksgiving with my family because this is the weekend that people have off from work.

I'm going to see a stage production of Sense and Sensibility a couple of days before Christmas and I haven't read the book so I'm hoping to do so before the show.

Classic Book a Month Club is reading Wuthering Heights, which I'd love to re-read, but I'm honestly not sure that will happen either.

Sometime soon I'll be posting my 2018 TBR Pile Challenge list, which I'm very excited about! This challenge is hosted by Roof Beam Reader, and he hasn't done it the past couple of years. I've done it on my own, but it's not the same so I'm very happy it's an official challenge again in 2018!


Pitch Perfect 3 will be coming out at the end of the month, so I'll be going to see that with some friends. Super exciting!

And of course, I plan to do a lot of my annual end-of-the-year lamenting about how I didn't achieve even one of my goals and what the heck am I doing with my life, and how can I be better person next year, etc. So stay tuned for my December wrap-up!



How was your November?


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR


Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week is all about our winter TBR lists. And when you've greatly restricted your use of a TBR list as I have, there's nothing more fun than permission to make one.

Here are the books I'm most looking forward to reading this winter:

1. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara

3. Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson

4. The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael Twitty

5. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

6. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

7. Longbourn by Jo Baker

8. Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor 

9. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

10. The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

Some of these are on my 2018 TBR Pile Challenge list which I'll be posting sometime soon, once it's finalized. (Roof Beam Reader is hosting again, so I don't need to do it on my own this year!) I'm hoping to start Sense and Sensibility sometime very soon because I have tickets to see a stage adaptation of it the weekend just before Christmas. My book group at work is reading Allegedly, I think for January. Others are just books I've been wanting to read, some of which just came out recently.

What are your winter reading plans?

Friday, November 24, 2017

Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (2017)

In an unspecified country, Saeed and Nadia meet and begin seeing each other as war closes in around them. But there are rumors of doors appearing that will take you far away to other countries, if you can find someone you can pay for the privilege of using one. They finally decide it's worth the risk, and they leave everything behind and step through, not knowing where they'll end up.

Where they land initially is Mykonos, in Greece, but it's not their last stop. Wherever there are doors, there are refugees like themselves trying to escape their homelands in search of a better life. Migrant communities rise up around the world, shifting the population and creating lots of competition for housing. As Saeed and Nadia navigate this new landscape, they initially grow closer and think of themselves as married, but as time goes on and their environments change, so do they, and both must think about what future they want.

Hamid's book is very short and I read it in just two days. The writing is lovely, and though filled with many lengthy comma-laden sentences, is rather easy to read. It's not especially detailed or descriptive, but just enough to give it a bit of atmosphere. I'm definitely left with questions about the doors and the ways they've changed the world, but the story here is really about the relationship between Saeed and Nadia. Even here, I felt like I was just scraping at the surface of these characters; I did get a good sense of their relationship, which was the point, but we don't get a lot of details about their characters' inner lives, past experiences, quirks, or internal struggles. They seem real enough, but like people you're seeing at a bit of distance. This really isn't a criticism, as these are all stylistic choices, but I think it's worth mentioning that this book isn't as meaty as my usual fare.

As I mentioned, the doors were never explained, and that's ok. What we know is that they began appearing at some point, and continued to appear (or be found) for a while at least and seemed to be permanent once they appeared. The result was essentially an opening of all borders, which is fascinating to think about. Of course people left the war-torn areas and went to more stable and wealthy areas, causing quite a shift in population. The doors that were found would quickly be taken over and guarded, and whether or not they could be accessed depended on who was guarding them. I wish we got more about the results of these population shifts, but if all my questions were answered this would have been a much longer and completely different book and I don't think I'd actually want that.

Exit West was a nice little break from my usual kind of reading, but I'm not sure if I'll remember it at all six months from now. However, I did quite like the short time I spent reading it.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Hate To Want You

Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai (2017)

Livvy and Nicholas are descended from the Chandler and Kane families, who used to own a grocery store empire together. But when a tragic accident killed Livvy's father and Nicholas's mother - who were inexplicably in a car together that night - that came to an end. Nicholas's father forced Livvy's mother to take a buyout for her husband's half of the business, giving her a raw deal. Then the store burned down and Livvy's twin brother Jackson was implicated, though never charged. Nicholas's father told him he had to break up with Livvy. But for ten years, they continued to see each other in secret once a year, just for sex, no strings attached. Now that Livvy has returned to town temporarily to take care of her mother, all the old wounds threaten to open up again.

Livvy hasn't been back home in years, hasn't seen her twin brother in years, hasn't had a proper conversation with Nicholas since they broke up, despite their yearly sex date. As if the original tragedy weren't enough, Livvy's brother Paul - married to Livvy's best friend Sadia - died a year ago. There is a lot of tragedy in this story, a lot of suppressed emotions, and issues left undealt with for years.

Livvy's grandfather who co-founded the grocery store was Japanese and he ended up in an internment camp during World War II. During that time, all the family's valuables were held by the Chandler family. This history not only added more interest (not to mention ethnic diversity) but it added even more depth to the complicated relationship between the two families. The characters were also diverse in that Livvy's widowed sister-in-law is bisexual and her aunt's great love was also a woman, but neither of these are made a big deal, they are just mentioned casually in passing.

I haven't even mentioned Livvy and Nicholas's relationship itself. They once had a traditional relationship, but once they had to break up and got together only annually on Livvy's birthday for sex, they stayed emotionally detached. I mean, not really, but they didn't talk or anything. They always got together in a different city, wherever Livvy was at the time. She was a tattoo artist, and of course there's meaning behind each of her own tattoos, which we eventually find out about. Once they're in the same town again, it becomes very difficult to maintain the same sort of relationship, which of course is a great thing because they were both pretty miserable for that whole decade.

I heard about this book on Smart Bitches Trashy Books, which picked it for their book club a few months ago. I feel like it got a lot of buzz, so despite my general wariness of contemporary romance, I was very curious about it. I also heard a couple of interviews with the author on the same podcast and she is delightful, and has a great laugh that I could listen to all day. It surprised me in a couple of ways. For a romance this book is pretty dark, which I didn't expect, and I also didn't realize it was an erotic romance until I started reading it. It's sort of opposite of the light, funny historicals I'm used to. I think it's not exactly my jam, but it's undeniably good. The writing is solid, the emotional journeys of the characters feels genuine, and there's lots of interesting subject matter.