Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann

51rjdnbi1il-_sl500_Summary: In the 1920s, the Osage Indians of Oklahoma were the richest people per capita due to the discovery of oil on their land. The federal government decided that the Osage were not “fit” to make monetary decisions on their own, and they were appointed legal guardians who did anything but guard the safety of their legal charges. Over a period of several years, many rich Osage were murdered (or died suspiciously) in what appears to be a conspiracy among legal guardians to gain control of the wealth. Outlining malicious greed and terror, Killers of the Flower Moon begins by following a specific set of murders that the FBI “solved.” Grann then continues the book by describing his own research into other mysterious deaths that happened around the same time.
My Thoughts: This book is engaging and terrifying at the same time. It’s sadly too easy to believe that people appointed to be “guardians” would act so despicably. It is disgusting and bigoted that the federal government claimed the Osage needed guardians to begin with. Such a tragic story. But one that I think every American should read to understand how the government has treated Native Americans.

5 snowflakes

Against the Tide, by Tui T. Sutherland

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Summary: Against the Tide is the fifth book in Spirit Animals, a middle-grade fantasy series imagined by Brandon Mull. The first one is called Wild Born, by Brandon Mull. The story picks up where book four left off. The team is looking for the amulets from other Great Beasts while trying to figure out if they have a mole in their midst.

My Thoughts: Spirit Animals is such an adorable series appropriate for middle-school-age kids. I plan on giving the first in the series to my 8-year-old step-daughter. It may be slightly above her reading level, but it’s the right level to challenge a second or third grader.

I love that Spirit Animals is written by different authors for each book – it introduces new authors to me. Against the Tide did not disappoint. I had some good laughs and was engaged the entire time. The story-line is not predictable, despite being appropriate for younger children. I am excited to get the next in the series, and will certainly look at what other books Sutherland has written.

Roots, by Alex Haley

51aejpwqdol-_sl500_Synopsis:¬†This is the epic story following the lineage of Kunta Kinte, who was kidnapped as a teenager from his home in Africa to be a slave in the US. His family is dramatically followed down the line to Alex Haley, the author. In fact, this turned out to be false – the story was plagiarized (including some of the characters) from a lesser known book, and Alex Haley apparently didn’t know much about his African ancestors.

My Thoughts: I can’t say much about my thoughts because I know they are colored too much by my disgust at Haley’s plagiarism. Regardless, he told the story well, and it was heartbreaking and sweet all at once. This was an incredibly character-driven novel, and I was interested especially in the earlier generations, though I felt it started to lag a bit at the end.

This book only gets three stars despite being a good story with fantastic characters because it was plagiarized.

3 snowflakes

 

 

Don Quixote: Chapter 8 to Chapter 20

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I have tried reading Don Quixote on several occasions. I’ve just never been able to get through it. I love the story, but part of my problem is the wordiness and part is are the diversions into unrelated stories. I’m sure that these diversions and flowery wordiness is parodying stories of chivalry around the time of Cervantes. However, that doesn’t make it any more amusing for me to get through. I think this is part of a parody that simply doesn’t translate well to modern literature. I think I will take a break from Don Quixote, and read a much lighter book for a while. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up where I left off with more excitement than I’m currently feeling.

Incarceration Nations, by Baz Dreisinger

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Synopsis: Dr. Dreisinger travels to different prisons around the world, giving 2-day seminars to the prisoners and comparing the pros and cons of each prison system.
My Thoughts: I admit this book wasn’t quite what I expected. I expected it to have more complaints (with evidence) about the problems of over-incarceration. Although it did contain such comments, that was not the point of the book. It was a fascinating description of different prisons throughout the world and what they were doing right (and wrong) in rehabilitating their inmates. She left some prisons feeling uplifted and left others feeling quite depressed. I found the book quite interesting even if it wasn’t quite what I expected.
I give this book 4 snowflakes for interest level and fluidity of writing
four snowflakes

Don Quixote Prologue – Chapter 7

DQWEM

This is not a review, it is notes and an analysis of Don Quixote. Therefore, it will contain spoilers.

So far, there are two issues that make me cringe about Don Quixote. They are: the book burning *shudder, and the way the characters treat a mentally ill man. We’ll start with a discussion of the book burning.

The prologue makes fun of writers of the day – how they are pedantic and (Cervantes claims) list off references in their works of fiction in alphabetical order from Aristotle to Xenophon. It would also appear from the prologue that the purpose of Don Quixote was to make the readers laugh by satirizing chivalric works of the time.

After Don Quixote’s first sally forth, his friends (who in the past encouraged the old man’s interest in works of chivalry) decided to burn his books and wall off the library, so that even the room where his madness overtook him could no longer be accessed by the erstwhile knight errant. I was a little confused by this book burning at first. Surely Cervantes felt the pain of destroying something so valuable as that library? So what was his point? Then I realized that he was making fun of the completely arbitrary way Don Quixote’s friends chose which books would be burned and which saved. They would look at a book, rattle off some preposterous monologue about whether the story were worth saving, and then decide whether to burn it. Then, they got really lazy, and just burned the rest. This is not the act of a caring friend, but someone who wants to solve a problem quickly, despite what damage he may incur.

Then, they walled off the library, and told the madman that an evil wizard had whisked it away to spite Don Quixote. Really? They’re encouraging the madness? These are his friends. At this point it seems like they care more about appearances (keeping Don Quixote from indulging in his madness) than about the actual health of their friend/uncle. But this is not the only terrible way he had been treated in the story. It seems that everyone he runs into, except for Sancho, is cruel. They mock him and encourage the madness. At the moment, I wonder whether Cervantes was also making a social statement about having compassion for the mentally ill, but that may be a bit forward thinking in the early 1600s. I will make a more educated guess as I proceed with the book.

 

American Psychosis, by E. Fuller Torrey

Synopsis: In this strongly stated book, Torrey describes how the formation of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) took place, accompanied by well-meaning, but ill-planned federal programs for the out-patient care of mentally 9780199988716_p0_v2_s550x406ill patients and the emptying of state-funded mental hospitals. Due to terrible conditions in state hospitals and to the discovery of antipsychotics, many well-intended people wanted to improve the condition of mentally ill people by giving them independence and better living conditions through outpatient treatment. So the founders of NIMH, with the help of President Kennedy, began a federal program intended to care for patients on an outpatient basis, as well as providing resources which were intended on reducing the onset of mental illness in future generations. Unfortunately, as the state hospitals closed en masse, these federal programs didn’t do their job as intended. The federal programs focused too much on trying (and failing) to reduce the new onset of mental illness, and not enough on taking care of people who were released from hospitals. Many people from the hospitals had nowhere to go and/or stopped taking their meds (for various reasons). The populations of homeless and jailed/imprisoned mentally ill people skyrocketed. Violence by and against people with mental illness skyrocketed. Chaos ensued.

My Thoughts:¬†First of all, I think Torrey’s book was too strongly stated. He puts a lot of blame on the US federal government when these same problems with deinstitutionalization and ensuing homelessness/incarceration-of-mentally-ill occurred in other countries around the same time. The book was also long on problems, short on solutions – even in the chapter whose title suggested that solutions would be presented. Despite these flaws, I enjoyed reading American Psychosis. It was full of interesting facts that I didn’t know about what the federal government was doing during the deinstitutionalization of state hospitals.

I give this book 3.5 snowflakes for interesting information and research.3 and half snowflakes