Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

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I don’t typically read a lot of non-fiction, but this book sounded interesting.  I love to learn about something I don’t know about and also enjoy mysteries, so this book seemed to be a good combination and had received a lot of good reviews. This well-written and researched book read more like fiction.  The historical account began with the fascinating investigation of the murder of an Osage Indian in the early twentieth century, and I learned a lot about the Osage community, the injustices they suffered and the early stages of the FBI.  The Osage had been moved from Kansas to Indian Territory (Oklahoma).  In the negotiation with the government over the sale of the land, the lawyers for the Osage fortuitously preserved mineral rights which eventually brought them great wealth when oil was discovered on their land.  The government got involved, claiming they weren’t smart enough to handle that fortune and appointed guardian trustees to help manage the money.  Unfortunately, many unscrupulous white men were not happy with the Osage’s fortune and took advantage of the situation and swindled them.  There were also many suspicious deaths among the Osage that were not investigated sufficiently during the time period.

This book details the sad and unfortunate (to say the least) time in our history.  The hard to believe this could have happened story is both engaging and infuriating, and I didn’t want to put the book down.

 

 

 

 

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The Dry by Jane Harper

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After my husband and I finished the last book posted, we started listening to The Dry by Jane Harper on our return home.  The Dry is an excellent debut mystery series set in a small town called Kiewarra in Australia.  The town is already on edge due to the heat and a two-year drought when a farm family is found dead.  The town easily believes that Luke Hadler snapped due to the heat and drought, causing him to murder his wife and daughter and then commit suicide.  Luke’s childhood friend, Aaron Falk, now a member of the Federal Police, returns after decades of being away to attend his friend’s funeral.  Aaron had previously left town in a cloud of suspicion when his friend Ellie Deacon was found dead in a river and a note to Aaron was found which led people to suspect he might be responsible.  As questions arise surrounding his friend’s death, Aaron uncomfortably sticks around to help the local police investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths.  The past resurfaces in his investigation which is relayed in present day and flashbacks allowing the mystery to unfold in a nice manner.

The setting for this book is well-done, and I felt like I was there along with the characters.  Jane Harper has written engaging characters, and Aaron is a believable and fleshed-out protagonist.  This well-written mystery kept me engaged and guessing the solution until the end of the book.  I look forward to reading more in this series.

Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

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On a recent trip to a wedding, my husband and I decided to listen to “Don’t Let Go” written by Harlan Coben.  Coben is one of those authors my husband and I both feel we can count on to keep us engaged and entertained.  We both really enjoy his Myron Bolitar mystery series, and I used to keep the next one in the series waiting until I had an airplane trip that required a sure bet (this was before e-books were so easy to travel with providing many choices to choose from).  Although this is not one in the mystery series, this thriller was no exception.  Nap Dumas is a police detective in New Jersey who suddenly finds himself being questioned about some fingerprints found at a murder scene.  It turns out they are the fingerprints of his Senior High girlfriend, Maura, and they were found at a scene also connecting to another high school friend.  Maura had been the love of his life but had broken up with him and mysteriously disappeared the night his twin brother, Leo, and his girlfriend, Diana, were found dead on the local railroad tracks.  A devastated Nap has been haunted for the last 15 years from unresolved questions about what happened that night, and with this new lead indicating Maura is still alive, he starts to look again for answers.  His search, however, seems to bring more questions than answers about his friends, family, and town. As he learns more about that night, there are, of course, people who would rather have those secrets left buried.

This stand alone thriller delivers another well-developed plot with great characters that keeps you intrigued.    Myron Bolitar also makes a small appearance in this book, delighting this fan.

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

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I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Netgalley, but unfortunately wasn’t able to get it read prior to its release.  I ended up listening to the audiobook of this poetically told story and the narration for the book was excellent.  Although I can appreciate the beauty in the writing, I never got as engaged in the characters as I felt I should have or wanted to.  The story is about a poor family in Mississippi struggling to survive.  Leoni is a drug-addicted mom who ventures in and out of her children’s lives.  Her thirteen-year-old  biracial son, Jojo, is the oldest and has pretty much been taking care of his three-year-old sister, Kayla, since she was born even though they live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop.  Mam is dying of cancer and Pop is struggling with that, but they show the kids love, kindness, how to survive in the world, and to be kind.  Given, Leoni’s dead brother, also make appearances throughout the book in visions to Leoni when she is high. She is more interested in her relationship with the father of her children than being a mother, but she takes the kids on a perilous journey to pick up their father when he is released from prison.

This literary, character-driven book deals with themes of biracial identity, the responsibilities of parenting, addiction, family, and poverty.  If you are looking for a literary, lyrically written book with well-drawn characters, this one might be for you.  The book won the National Book Award, and was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the Andrew Carnegie Medal, and was a Publisher’s Weekly top 10 for 2017.

 

Crash and Burn by Lisa Gardner

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Nicky Frank has escaped death a second time after surviving a terrible car crash down the side of a mountain.  When she is found after crawling up the mountain to the side of the road, a search is started for the child, Vera, who she deliriously claims is missing.  Search dogs, however, do not find a scent for the child, which puzzles the police. They are further puzzled when her husband arrives at the hospital and informs them that they do not have any children and Nicky has recently suffered three head traumas.  Nicky is often delusional and has lost blocks of her memory, but is haunted by her past.  She was heavily intoxicated with Scotch at the time of the accident, but as the police begin investigating, it turns out that all is not as it seems.  It is not clear during the investigation what is real and what is not or who is telling the truth and who is not.  Wyatt, the police investigator on the case, realizes that there is more going on here than is obvious and requests the assistance of his girlfriend, private detective Tessa Leoni.

This was my first Lisa Gardner book, and I really enjoyed the storyline with twists and turns that kept me guessing throughout this intriguing page-turner.  We read this for our genre study at the library, and several of us were confused that it’s labeled a Tessa Leoni series book.  Even though she was called in to help, she wasn’t really the primary investigator and really didn’t have a large presence in the book.

 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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The book starts in 1939 where poor, twelve-year-old Rill Foss loves her life, living on the family’s shantyboat.  One day, however, her pregnant mother is rushed to the hospital, and she is left in charge of her four younger siblings.  The children are kidnapped and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage.  Although they are told they are staying there until their parents can come get them, that is not the case.  They are treated cruelly by the Director, Georgia Tann, who brought them there so she can adopt the children out to wealthy families.

The book also alternates chapters to tell the contemporary story of Avery Stafford who is born into wealth and works as a successful prosecutor but returns home to South Carolina to help out her Dad who is a US Senator running for re-election.  She stumbles upon an acquaintance of her Grandmother’s that raises some questions that she begins to investigate.  As she unravels more information, the storyline begins to intertwine with Rill’s story from the past.

I was astounded to find out at the end of the story that Georgia Tann was a real person with this scandalous story.  She bought or kidnapped poor children and adopted them out to the wealthy families for 30 years.  It is hard to believe this could have continued for so long without someone revealing what was going on or doing something to stop it.  The story is riveting and the characters are well developed, bringing this heart-wrenching, yet uplifting story to life.  This is one that will grab you by the heart and keep you turning the pages that you don’t want to end.

Thanks to Edelweiss for a copy of the book to read for an honest review.  It was a pleasure to give this review.

 

 

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

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This book is the tale of two Muslim families told through 5 character narratives.  The book starts with Isma, a girl of Pakistani origin living in the UK, who has been raising her younger twin siblings, Parvaiz and Aneeka, after the death of their Mother and Grandmother.  Their Dad had died previously as a Jihadist, but the family is not sure about the circumstances of his death as he died on the way to Guantanamo.  Now that her brother and sister are 18 she has the opportunity from a mentor to move from the UK to the US, and she is excited about the freedom and opportunity she finally has. The book begins with her arrival at the airport in the US and the scrutiny and suspicion she faces upon arrival providing insight into the current situation many people encounter trying to come to the US today.

Being children of a Jihadist causes special problems for all three children.  Parvaiz leaves home to try to find out about and understand his father, disappearing and leaving his sisters desperate to find him.

The book also follows Eamonn, who is the Muslim son of prominent British Home Secretary, Karamat Lone.  Eamonn has his own issues to contend with, and then his life and that of his father intertwine with the lives of the other family.

This book was on the Booker Prize long list and is well written.  It starts out slowly but builds to the climax.  I learned after reading the book that it is based on Antigone.  It probably would have helped to have brushed up on that prior to reading the book, but it wasn’t necessary.  The book addresses lots of timely issues with the current political situation, and reading an example of how some young people are recruited to terrorist activities was interesting to me.  I also enjoyed the exploration of the theme of family loyalty presented, and the book provides lots to discuss and consider.

Thank you to Edelweiss for providing a review copy of this book for an honest review.

 

 

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

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This was another fascinating book one of my book groups discussed.   It is a shocking, non-fiction book about the women who worked in the factories that produced radium watch dials during World War I.  When the Curries discovered radium it was marketed as a wonder drug and great new beauty option and used in many products.  The girls who worked in the factory received a higher than normal pay for a job they felt was glamorous and provided for some camaraderie, so the position was highly sought after.  People called them “the shining girls” because they glowed from the radium on their clothes and bodies even after washing.  The technique used by the ladies was “dip, lip and paint” where the ladies put the radium- filled brushes to their lips to achieve the fine point needed to paint the dials.  Soon the women were suffering horrific, permanent and progressing ailments and sometimes death, but they were told time and again that there was no harm with the radium although the owner knew there was.  No one had experience with radium, so it took a while for doctors to put two and two together.  On a positive note, their struggle did lead to the workers’ rights movement.

What I enjoyed most was learning about these events and time in history.  The book could have used some heavy editing because there was a lot of information that wasn’t needed, and it would have been more gripping if the focus had been deeper around the lives of the women.  All in all, though, I’m glad that I read this one.

Thank you to Edelweiss for a copy of the book for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

Magdelen Girls by V.S. Alexander

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I was lucky enough to win copies of this book for one of my book groups.  It tells a fascinating story about Dublin’s convent of The Sisters of the Holy where “problem” girls were sent to live.  Society was harsh, and sometimes the girls really hadn’t done anything wrong like one of the protagonists, Teagan Tiernan, whose only sin was being a beauty.  Her beauty attracted the attention of a new priest who lusted after her.  After his confession to the bishop, the bishop feared a scandal might follow.  To prevent anything from advancing, he went to Teagan’s family and made arrangements for Teagan to be sent there.  Teagan also forms a bond there with another girl, Nora Craven, whose poor family sent her there to get her away from her boyfriend.  These girls had to work in the Magdalen laundry located on the convent grounds.  This was not a warm and loving convent that the girls were sent to.  They were basically held as prisoners, working long agonizing hours, kept from contact with the outside world, and suffered horrific and cruel and treatment and punishments.

Although the book felt a little slow in the beginning, I enjoyed learning about something I did not previously know about.  I actually had difficulty remembering that the book was taking place in 1962 because it was so hard to believe such things could be happening in such recent history.  It was unbelievable how many people could overlook the atrocities and make justifications for what was happing.  I did enjoy the friendship that developed, and although the subject was hard to read about, I’m glad that I learned about this terrible spot of history.  The book does have a bit of mystery as well about a secret past of one of the sisters.

 

 

 

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

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I’m way behind on my postings, so I’ll be trying to catch up in the next week or so.  Since it is now October and Halloween is right around the corner, I thought I’d start with a Stephen King novella I listened to.  Gwendy is a chubby twelve-year-old who has been running up and down the “Suicide Stairs” trying to lose weight before she enters middle school.  She has seen a man mysteriously dressed in black sitting there every day, but then one day he approaches her, strikes up a conversation, and gives her a button box.  He tells her that he is entrusting her to keep it safe because the box has special powers.  One of the levers releases delicious chocolates that give her special abilities and another lever gives her silver coins.  The buttons on the box also have special powers.  Gwendy soon learns that she has to make tough decisions regarding the box.   Along with the positive benefits she receives from the box also come bad things as well.  I’m not typically a huge horror genre fan, but I really enjoyed his earlier books, so I occasionally read one of his books.  This was a quick and enjoyable easy listen.   The book did not end as expected which came as a surprise.