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Angel of death

Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
By: David Grann

Many of the Osage would rush to see a gusher when it erupted, scrambling for the best view, making sure not to cause a spark, their eyes following the oil as it shot fifty, sixty, sometimes a hundred feet in the air. With its great black wings of spray, arcing above the rigging, it rose before them like an angel of death.

A series of killings and purported “deaths due to disease” in Osage County, Oklahoma in the early 20th century prompted journalist David Grann’s research for this sobering book. Over several years, Osage landowners were killed, and white men who tried to help landowner families find justice for the victims also were targeted. Grann’s exposition is clear and chilling: these Osage people were killed in order to funnel their land rights (especially their minerals rights) into the hands of a few white men who were pursuing Oklahoma oil strike riches in the most despicable ways you can imagine. Peppered with obstruction, witness intimidation, and ineptitude on the part of some early FBI investigators, it is an eye-opening piece of history that my grandparents would have read about in newspaper headlines in the 1920's.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction, history
Posted by April on Oct. 30, 2017 at 8:17 a.m.
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Fortuna is fickle

Golden Hill: a novel of old New York

Title: Golden Hill: a novel of old New York
By: Frances Spufford

He was the one unshackled, as yet unconfined; the one from whom diversion, or news, or any other of the new worlds a stranger may contain, were to be expected. And perhaps desired. For if your fortune at present is not such as pleases you, there is a prospect of mercy, as much as of doom, in the thought that Fortuna is fickle. The goddess’s renown is all in her changeableness, and strangers are her acknowledged messengers.

A lively tale with some curious twists and remarkable turns. A view of the early days of New York, pre-independence, when it was 1/100th the size of London. Young Mr. Smith arrives from London on November 1st, 1746, with a letter of credit so large that the local banker can’t cover it and mistrusts its validity. Since letters travel between the East Coast and Europe by sailing ship, Mr. Smith must manage somehow until further confirmation arrives. His adventures occupy the space of time through December 25th--and I won’t say any more than that, so as not to spoil your enjoyment. I will say that Spufford is an elegant and witty writer who uses period language with a modern sensibility.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by April on Oct. 30, 2017 at 8:14 a.m.
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A hilarious journey into first love

I believe in a thing called love

Title: I believe in a thing called love
By: Maureen Goo

Desi Lee has never had a boyfriend. She reasons that this is probably because she has been so busy with school and extracurricular activities. Desi’s friends, however, know that it’s because during times of pressure, she tends to crack. Her friends call these moments flailures. After one particularly spectacular flailure in a crowded school hallway, Desi holes up at home over the weekend watching Korean dramas with her dad. At first, she thinks that these dramas are overblown soap operas, and makes fun of her dad for watching them. But the more she watches, the more she realizes that the romances portrayed in the shows might actually help her come up with a plan to woo the new guy at school.

As with the shows, chaos ensues. Desi’s own “K-Drama” involves over-protective fathers, getting trapped on a boat, a probable love triangle, and art club. Over the course of these misadventures, Desi learns that in real life, feelings tend to get in the way of firmly laid plans.

I Believe in A Thing Called Love takes us on a hilarious journey into first love and that wild world we call high school.

View similarly tagged posts: teen fiction
Posted by pughc on July 29, 2017 at 8:15 a.m.
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History is complicated

Dreamland Burning

Title: Dreamland Burning
By: Jennifer Latham

Rowan Chase lives with her parents in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When her parents decide to do some renovations on their house, they run into a problem—construction workers find a skeleton buried in the backyard. When it’s discovered that the body has probably been there since the early 1920s and it’s that of a young man, Rowan decides to find out the truth about what really happened. The truth leads to the events leading up to the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, when, over a two day period, the African American section of the city had been burned nearly to the ground. Rowanvaguely remembers learning about the riots in history class, but now it’s real. From a receipt found in the pocket of the dead man’s clothing, Rowan gets a name: William Tillman, a young man the same age as Rowan. Now, the story is told in two perspectives, Rowan’s investigation in the present day and William’s life in the days before the riot. At the end, will Rowan like the answers she finds? And will William survive the events of the riot?

Dreamland Burning shows us that history is complicated. There’s always more than one side to
every story.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction, teen fiction
Posted by pughc on April 6, 2017 at 8:31 a.m.
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Reading dangerously

The year of reading dangerously : how fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones) saved my life

Title: The year of reading dangerously : how fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones) saved my life
By: Andy Miller

I, too, dislike "Year of Reading This, Year of Reading That" memoirs. This one is actually good. It's hard to resist a literary tour guide who pits Moby-Dick against The Da Vinci Code (in the chapter "Whale vs. Grail"). Also, one has to like an author who includes the titles he considered, but, decided against, giving his book: The Miller's Tales; Up From Sloth; The Body In The Library.

The books Andy Miller reads in the course of his dangerous year range from fairly highbrow -- The Master And Margarita; Middlemarch; War And Peace; Under The Volcano -- to a Silver Age pop culture comic book (Silver Surfer, from the pages of The Fantastic Four)*. Regardless of the literary reputation of the book in question, he remains a diverting raconteur. About midway into his Year, he folds in some poignant memories of reading as a kid: a suburban children's library, no toys, just a smaller version of the main library with the same parquet floor with its perfume of polish. He then pivots to his own young son's burgeoning love of books. This deepens the book's emotional pull.

Miller also partakes of the enthusiasm of Krautrocksampler, an ecstatic survey of German psychedelic rock of the 70s ("It [Funken] achieved!"), and regards solemnly The Tiger Who Came To Tea, a picture book which seems bizarre in its own unique way, beyond the prevailing oddities of 1968 British kids' books.

Plus, how can you gainsay a writer who includes this Book Group Discussion Question about his own book: "Andy Miller obviously has a unique mind and a fierce intelligence. But would you want to go down the pub with him?"

*Truly, bristlingly highbrow, in my opinion, would be Finnegans Wake, or Gravity's Rainbow . . .

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction, biography
Posted by mcgrewg on March 13, 2017 at 10:23 a.m.
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