Feeling Bookish & the Senses Project: Killers of the Flower Moon

Tuesday Revews-Day

Not too long ago our local bookstore, The Bookshelf, hosted a Book Club Fair–an inspired way to connect readers with other readers and, specifically, book clubs in the area. I signed up for a few of them (whether I stick with all of them every month remains to be seen, but I’m giving them all a fair shot before I decide).

One club is one I’ve been meaning to get to for months, Stitches and Stories. It’s a joint effort with The Bookshelf and Fuzzy Goat and it’s such a low-key book club meets Knit Night that it’s just too awesome to pass up. They play the beginning of an audiobook (via Libro.fm, an audiobook distributor that allows a portion of your purchase to go to the independent book store of your choice) while you knit, crochet, etc. and then there’s a discussion of the story so far, whether people think they might read or listen to it on their own afterwards, etc. They also ask if anyone completed the previous month’s book, but it’s still super low pressure.

There are two more traditional book-clubs that I signed up for, as well (and a third that specializes in YA books but it’s on hiatus still), and they’re both reading the same book for March:

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

I’ve finished the book and, as the first of the two clubs meets tonight, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on the book, for good or ill, before meeting with the group(s). I’m also revisiting the Five Senses project I came up with a while back and maybe I’ll be able to keep that going since I’ll be reading more meaty books for the clubs 🙂

First impression: The title filled me with a tiny bit of dread that the book would be heavy and depressing. I mean, yes, I read a lot of murder mysteries and frequently go through WWII-era kicks, not exactly laugh-a-minute stuff, there. But there’s something about the prospect of reading about the many and varied ways our forefathers attempted to eradicate yet another indigenous people was not a thrilling one. Murder mysteries (and even WWII narratives) have a common thread of justice being served, the bad guys caught/punished, etc. Would the same truly be the case in this book, I wondered?

Yes and no. Without going into too much detail, it wasn’t the genocide that I’d feared from my first impression, but it was pretty heavy. I knew pretty much nothing about the Osage Nation before reading this book and, as a white, middle class woman I’m struck by the guilt of privilege reading how depraved the men and women of that time and place were to go to such levels (poisoning, execution, or even the systematic disenfranchisement that went on) to strip them of their mineral rights, the one “consolation”–if you can even look at it that way–of being forcibly uprooted and relocated as so many other tribes were before being winnowed out.

And while some were caught and prosecuted, the author (a reporter) goes into the murders that were not solved (often covered up by those in power at the time, if they were even reported) and develops a theory as to which parties might have also taken part in the events that all come down to one thing: greed.

So, yeah, that was a fun read…. not. But there’s always something to be gleaned, and this is where the Five Senses project comes in.


One of the first connections I made while reading Killers of the Flower Moon has little to do with the Osage and more to do with the Cherokee, namely the Land Run of 1823, which took place after the lands the Cherokee had settled on went through the process of allotment: the government parcels out the land to each tribe member in 160-acre parcels and the unassigned lands were (simplifying the process here) opened to settlers to claim. A similar thing was proposed to the Osage but they, fortunately, had better representation and the territory was divided equally among the Osage and there was a provision about while the land could be sold, the mineral rights could only be acquired through inheritance.

At any rate, the land run made me think of the movie Far and Away (Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, 1992) where a similar land run is featured at the end (the movie is 26 years old, I think we can dispense with the spoiler warning). I wondered it if was, by chance, the same one and yes, it indeed was. Of course no mention is made about how the land came to be available, so watch it with a fresh perspective if it’s been a while since you last saw it.

Another option is The FBI Story (Jimmy Stewart, 1959). This one I haven’t seen but was mentioned in the book as it was a bit of a puff piece and love letter to J Edgar Hoover, it does at least mention the Osage murders as it was this investigation that helped solidify support of a federal branch of law enforcement.

Finally, in the latter part of the book an Osage ballet is mentioned–Wahzhazhe–and it’s actually available to watch online through the Osage Ballet website.


Cherokee by Europe–no, sorry, that’s a poor attempt at a touch of levity for a book that really had so few (if any?!) light moments.

On a more serious note, if you’re at all interested in learning to pronounce the Osage names correctly, I’ve found an Osage Pronunciation Guide that may be of some help in the front.

Also, any oral history projects out there–Osage or otherwise–would be an illuminating listen if you can find them.


Find either a class or online project sheet to create something in the Native American style. Be it weaving, leatherwork, pottery, or basket-weaving, there are plenty of options out there.

Case in point, and a bit of coincidence or serendipity at play, my local History Center is hosting a Cherokee Double-Bottom Basket workshop in a couple of weeks and I’d signed up for it before I even started reading this month’s book. I’m quite looking forward to it!


Like a lot of Americans, I have a sliver of Native American ancestry a few generations back. I don’t know which tribe she was a part of, but my great-great-great (I think that’s right) grandmother on my mom’s side was named Lottie Youngblood, for whatever that’s worth. The only shred of relevance that has, here, is that growing up, we’d go home to visit family, and PawPaw would make us Fried Bread at least once a visit as a treat.

I’m fairly certain that his Fried Bread (a sort of biscuit dough fried in hot grease) is actually a take on Fry Bread, for which there are plenty of recipes online.


This one is tough because smells didn’t figure heavily in the story. So for smell I’m going to suggest using bundled sage as incense or to smudge your home. You can find sage bundles in crystal or New Age shops, some natural health care sorts of shops, and (of course) online. One of my local shops, Smith Collective, offers smudge bundles online.

Tuesday Reviews-Day: Hard to Die by Andra Watkins

Tuesday Revews-Day

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. I was also provided a review copy of today’s book.

For someone who was abysmal at history in school, I certainly do like a good history-based story. From the Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George to the Kent Family series by John Jakes, I lap up varying degrees of historical fiction much more readily than I did my AP History book in high school. In fact, had something like Hamilton existed back then, I don’t think I would have needed as many all-nighters as that class required of me.

Being a Hamilton fan, when I was approached with a review copy of Hard to Die, a novel by Andra Watkins based on Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr who went missing at sea, I was definitely curious enough to accept. I knew the book had elements of speculative fiction and a touch of the supernatural, but I was still expecting a bit more post-Revolutionary War and not being plopped down in Cold War-era America.

That disconcertion aside, I stuck with the story which follows Theo as she travels through a purgatory-like existence in Nowhere owing to her untimely death and unresolved life. She has just so many chances to complete a mission (to aid someone at a crossroads in their life) and move onto whatever waits beyond Nowhere. She’s not a ghost, though, she’s flesh and blood, and the dangers faced are real. She can die (again) in the course of her mission and have to start all over. I thought it was a rather clever blending of purgatory, limbo, and reincarnation in a way I hadn’t read before.

While we get glimpses of her actual history–tidbits of Burr’s other exploits, her son’s death, etc.–most of the time is spent in 1950, at West Point, with a Cadet and former spy, Richard, that is the object of Theo’s Nowhere mission. While entertaining enough and it opens some doors onto intriguing avenues of self-study (the previous volume in this series focuses on Merriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, which is a whole ‘nother story and then some), this might almost be better suited for WWII fans than Hamilton fans.

Still, if you know someone who’s into both, it might be a nice gift when combined with a few other choice items. If I were to put this together as a bundled gift, I’d slip in a copy of Hamilton: the Revolution, the Original Broadway Recording (just because we’re fans doesn’t mean we’ve purchased the album yet–I listen to it via Prime Music, for instance), and Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography that started it all.

Five More Minutes

Everyday Adventures

I just finished listening to My Mother Was Nuts, a memoir by actress and director Penny Marshall, read by the author.

(Yes, there are affiliate links in this post.)

At first, I wasn’t too sure about her reading her own work–because that’s what it sounded like, someone reading, not performing. But as the book went on, the occasional misplaced paused or lack of inflection stopped mattering, and the deadpan delivery of some of the lines increased the comedy tremendously.

She began and ended the book talking about her desire as a kid to have five more minutes of play time. And describes a lot of her life as ways to play a little bit more. But she wasn’t just about play and having fun, she learned from her brother that it was important to give back–through jobs or even just little ways to make people’s lives better, happier, even for a moment.

The stories about her dance-teacher mom’s relentless hunt for the next place to perform was toned down from mania by Marjorie’s belief that everyone should know how it feels to entertain. While she didn’t set out to be an entertainer herself, a series of opportunities and her brother’s Hollywood connections led to her most famous role as Laverne on Laverne and Shirley. She talks about her SNL memories, and the incredibly funny people she and her second husband, Rob Reiner, hung out with in California. About the joint birthday parties she and Carrie Fisher threw for decades, her travels with Art Garfunkel, and the movies she directed–some of them among my all-time favorites, like A League of Their Own.

I read celebrity biographies not because they are celebrities–I dislike the blind hero worship that celebrities inspire–but because these books show their humanity. Plus, I really like the behind the scenes details about the shows and movies I enjoy, it makes the experiences much more rich. After hearing how Lavern and Shirley got started and what episode she really found her comedic legs on (Angels of Mercy) I went and looked up some of those notable episodes (a lot are available on Hulu). I’m a product of the pop-up video generation, I like the inside scoop, and I prefer to hear it from the horse’s mouth, not some sensationalized tabloid version edited to be more salacious than it really was.

While I wasn’t as crazy about the stories of the various drugs they did during the 80s, I appreciated her frank description of her experiences. When she spoke about 9/11 and what it meant to her to be a New Yorker at that time, and how she went to every event, every opportunity, to show that the city was safe and that the terrorists weren’t going to stop them from living their lives, the choke in her voice wasn’t an act, it was touching. I choked up, and I’m a cynical bitch when it comes to things like that.

Not only did I enjoy this book, I put it up there with the Ellen Burstyn memoir, Lessons in Becoming Myself, as a favorite biography and one I’d recommend unconditionally.

One last thing, the quote that stands out to me is one where she accepts an invitation to spend Christmas in Switzerland. She says,

I was amazed at what was possible when I said yes.

Many (many) years ago I made a rule for myself that I would not say no to any reasonable opportunities. It was a challenge to myself, to my habit of wanting to do something but talking myself out of it at the last minute because it was a new experience and I couldn’t predict the outcome. I was tired of sitting at home wondering what I was missing, knowing it was fear that was keeping me from experiencing life.

I didn’t make 100% fabulous choices, and some were downright dangerous but for some serious overtime put in by my guardian angel, but for the most part I’ve had good things come out of say yes, sure, why not?

This stood out to me, and made me love the book and her story even more, because I could definitely relate. Just like the element of each story in the movies she chose to direct or produce, it’s that common element of life that creates a bond, and make us feel invested and involved.

Penny Marshall had a major health hiccup in 2010 but was able to beat it. Here’s to her “five more minutes,” may they be long ones.

Don’t Switch Voice Talent in the Middle of a Series

Everyday Adventures

You know, the wordier cousin of ‘don’t switch horses in the middle of the stream.’

If you listen to audiobooks, of course the reader is important. Their pacing, inflection, and interpretation of the material set the stage along with the actual words they’re reading. Some readers are iconic, some are annoying. A bad reader can make a book not worth listening to.

The powers that be opted to change readers between books 2 and 3 of the Red Cell Series and I thought it was for the better, at first, but then…

In Red Cell Seven [yes, that’s an affiliate link, if someone is masochistic enough to buy the book after this not-exactly-a-review], book 2 in the series, we meet a big bad that carries us through to book 3. I don’t recall if the Gadanz family was definitively identified by ethnicity, but I got the impression (from the family names) that they were vaguely Eastern European in origin. The reader did nothing to dispell this notion, especially with his pronunciation of Jacob as Ya-kob. So imagine my surprise when the reader of Book 3 voices Gadanz as a sinister Slowpoke Rodriguez (that would be the cousin of Speedy Gonzalez, for those who don’t remember their Looney Toons). Someone didn’t do their homework!

But that wasn’t my only complaint about the rest of the series (like it would be that simple, hah!).

Book 2 left me with character whiplash. Not just from the dumping of all sorts of players into the mix (though there were a lot of moving parts, or should I say targets) in this one. No, it was the waffling they did on their positions, like they didn’t even know their own mind. One presumes that the Frey had it planned out (not a given, but you always hope), but you couldn’t tell it by the characters. And while you can get away with a reveal or two (dun-dun-DUN) but I lost count how many characters switched position or motivation how many times.

Finally, in Kodiak Sky, came the biggest annoyance of any series: the giant inconsistency.

The following could be considered a spoiler, I suppose, but not much of one. You’ve been warned, in any case.

In book 3, Karen is said to know a little bit about Red Cell Seven because Jack told her some of it, but she didn’t know a lot. Uh, wait just a minute. In book 1, when Jack goes off to solve the mystery of Troy’s death, Jack tracks Karen down as her fiance died in similar circumstances to Troy. She, in turn, has a letter from Troy telling her to go to her late fiance’s family’s cabin up north (I don’t remember which M-state it was located in and don’t care enough to go look it up), where he (Troy) has hidden the story of Red Cell Seven and it’s believed betrayal by one of the higher-up members. It’s supposedly a pretty comprehensive missive. And Karen read it before Jack even did.

And that’s about where I would have checked out, but for that I was driving and it was better than the static-y morning shows that I could have switched to while on the highway. Instead I finished the blasted trilogy and, frankly, I’d well rid of it.

I can’t, in good conscience, recommend the series, even if you are his target audience. These are but a few of the annoyances, though they are the most glaring. It wasn’t so bad that I just couldn’t make myself finish the series, but it was more just to have something on and save me the trouble of finding a new, better book to listen to.

Hopefully my next read/listen will be more rave-worthy, right?


The Mary Sue at the Beginning of This Series

Just for Fun

While I may mix it up from time to time, most nights my before-bed routine includes reading whatever book I’ve got going on at the moment. I generally have a few books in progress at any given time (not counting the audiobooks for the car) just because my mood changes or something looks really interesting. I also enjoy reading series because I get to spend more time in the same world, with the same characters that I enjoy.

Like, for instance, the Life After War books by Angela White.

(Note: this post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

I originally read the first few books several years ago when I stumbled upon them as free Kindle offerings. The basic premise is that the world goes ass over teakettle in 2012 when the US releases nuclear weapons on itself. The whys and wherefores are mostly inconsequential–it’s just a backdrop upon which the lives of a handful of survivors unfold, evolve, and come together. They all have secrets, flaws, and insecurities. No one is perfect, but most of them are doing what they can to survive with some sort of eye towards the future. They face both human and natural enemies as they cross the country in search of a spot to settle the growing refugee camp known as Safe Haven, and not without their fair share of setbacks.

And to say more than that would, I think, give away too much of the story in case you enjoy survivalist stories with a bit of the supernatural thrown in for good measure.

If I were to sum it up, the overall feel and vibe of the series, I’d call it a post-apocalyptic version of the Jean M Auel Earth’s Children books (you know, the Clan of the Cave Bear books?) that I read back in my teen years. Not that I feel like the author copies Auel, just that it has a similar scope. Read them both and you can tell me if you agree or not 😛

The one thing that makes me side-eye the series is that the main female character–the powerful witch that all men seem to want in one way or another and women want to be like or in her good graces? Yeah… her name is Angela White.

Self-insertion is hardly the worst thing an author could do. In fact, it’s pretty common in one form or another. Most authors will cop to feeling like part of themselves went into creating their leading men and women and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s part write what you know and part human nature. No big thing.

But when your main character bears your own name and it isn’t a memoir? Too far, in my opinion.

Now, because I read the first few books in quick succession (Kindle makes that so easy with their links at the end of each book), it wasn’t until I had to go in search of Book 4 that I realized the whole name thing. And, yes, it cast a bit of something over the story for me, at least at first, but obviously not too much of one since I just started book 6, Where We Stand, last night.

Would I still recommend this series, even with the massive self-insertion faux pas? Yes, I would. It’s a good story, the characters are engaging, there is enough action to keep the story moving but also time for character development and small moments. It’s brutal, but not gratuitous, but that makes sense for the type of story it is.