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.

Arctic Fire Could Use Some Warmer Characters

Everyday Adventures

(this post includes affiliate links)

In this book’s defense, I’m pretty sure I’m not the ideal market the author had in mind.

Also in it’s defense, the macho, daredevil, lady-killer, completely unapologenic character we meet in the very beginning of Arctic Fire (which elicited much side eye from yours truly) was probably meant to appeal to the stereotypical male media consumer of the fast cars and buxom babes ideal.

And it occurred to me, as I rolled my eyes yet again (dangerous, since I was driving at the time), that were it not for growing up with Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan (my two favorite Bonds, in that order) as the playboy secret agent and just picked up one of the 007 novels fresh, I’d probably be less than thrilled with that main character as well.

So all those caveats aside, I still had major issues with the characters in this book, which means I had issues with the book itself. I mean, you don’t want heroes that are too goody-goody and shiny, they’re boring and unrelatable. But if the warring factions of a story are only distinguished by the fraction of a smidgen of less bad one is compared to the other, it makes cheering for one side over the other a bit confusing and can make any ending unsatisfying.

So why did I spend the last 8-10 hours listening to Arctic Fire (Book 1 in the Red Cell Series, by Stephen W Fray)? Because I knew it would have enough action and tension to keep me interested during my drives without the excessive navel-gazing or moony romance.

From the “back cover”

Troy Jensen could do it all: he conquered the Seven Summits, sailed solo around the world twice, and even fought a bull in a Mexican slum on a dare. So when word comes that a rogue wave has swept Troy off a crab fishing boat in the Bering Sea and into a watery grave, his brother, Jack, doesn’t buy it.

Against his better judgment, Jack decides to quit his job as a Wall Street trader and head to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to investigate. Minutes after revealing his plan in his father’s New York City office, Jack is nearly run down in the street. He doesn’t think much of it at the time, but as he digs deeper into Troy’s disappearance, Jack unearths information about RED-CELL-SEVEN (RCS), a super-secret American intelligence group that has operated for forty years in almost total secrecy and with complete impunity—and its leaders intend to keep it that way at any cost.

An adrenaline-pumping tale of one man’s descent into a hellish underworld populated by terrorists, assassins, and very bad “good guys,” Arctic Fire explores the disturbing difference between doing what is good and doing what is right when it comes to protecting America from her greatest enemies.

Jack was a semi-likable character, flawed but open-minded compared to his more extreme father and brother (and friends). Okay, sure, he had the emotional maturity of a teenage boy, but still, he was attempting to do something akin to the right thing.

There was a chuckle when he told his pal he was going down to Florida to pick up a bartending job in The Keys to get away from his troubles–a little too much like Cocktail for me (which made me want to watch said movie again, except that I was afraid the nostalgia wouldn’t live up to the reality of a rewatch). And the love interest (obvious from the beginning), despite being a former cop, was more than willing to let a not-so-successful stock trader take the lead in their madcap race across the country with a rogue intel assassin on their tail. Yeah…

But the story also brought up some valid points. Most thrillers of this sort have their horrors safely removed from the reader by several degrees of not being in those professions, etc. that would put you into said dangerous situations. But as Jack asks his best friend, what about when it’s you they pick up to interrogate, even if you had nothing to do with anything, just because you know someone who might know something, not that you’d know, you know?

Where’s that line of right and wrong then?

The brutality of the scenes was bracing, but not unbelievably so. But the author stops short of gratuitous violence and gore, which I appreciate.

So while I’d probably give this story a 2 out of 5 (with 0 being couldn’t even finish it and 5 being oh-my-gawd-I-need-more-where’s-the-sequel), I sure as anything downloaded the next book in the series because yes, I wanted to know what happens next. With that said, had the story not been available as an audiobook on Kindle Unlimited (click here for a 30-Day Free Trial) I wouldn’t have spent actual money on it to find out. So, yeah, casual read okay, but not more than that.

Heard any good books, lately?

I Don’t Know Why I Do This To Myself?!

Everyday Adventures

I don’t watch movies that I know will make me sob (Nicholas Sparks, I’m looking at you), The news is usually depressing, so I avoid the local broadcasts and newspapers, settling for what various feeds filter through to me, knowing I’ll get the important stuff that way. I avoid people that I know frustrate, take advantage of, or otherwise cause drama whenever possible. And I don’t watch horror movies before bed so that I can sleep in the dark without having to meditate for an hour to feel semi-safe.

In other words, I guard my mental health rather carefully. It makes for far better days and nights.

And yet…

I have a penchant for end-of-the-world books and movies. Not necessarily dystopian stories, more like the actual here-comes-the-end stories. Some are tame and a degree removed from my reality–movies like Twister and Volcano feel more remote thanks to geography and small in scale, for instance. But others are decidedly less removed and send the creepy crawlies up my back and into my brain.

Case in point: my current audiobook is Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather and re-reading Life After War by Angela White. But this really started way back in the day when I read Alas, Babylon because it was on the high school reading list and I’d found a copy in the used book store by Mom’s office. I still have that same copy, though the back cover is missing and the pages are beyond worn.

Alas, Babylon was very close to home, dealing with a pocket of survivors in a Florida town, after a sudden and swift nuclear war. While the town was fictional, plenty of other things weren’t, and I think about scenes from that book almost every time we head to the central or southern parts of the state.

Back then, of course, all I could do was worry and fear. Fear was a big part of those years from one source or another. While I enjoyed the story I certainly can’t say that I enjoyed the feelings it provoked.

These days, with the “prepper” mentality becoming more and more mainstream, I admit that stories like these turn my thoughts to stocking up on dry goods and buying a rain barrel or three. When the story centers around a natural disaster it’s easier to distance myself from the fear and worry. After all, you can only do so much and worry doesn’t help. But in the case of Cyber Storm, well, that one feels a little more real.

I mean, just think about how many times someone in your circle (if not you, yourself) have had a credit card or other account compromised by low-life hackers just because they can. (And, yes, that’s a broad generalization but I think it’s justified for the havoc they wreak.) Or the data breaches going on at large retailers. Or even the DDOS attacks that are focused at any given large governmental network for any given time.

The idea that a city’s (or country’s) infrastructure could be compromised and crashed? Not so far fetched. That nuclear codes, missile launch keys, and other such systems could be triggered by a dedicated few out to cause mischief? Sobering to say the least.

But I’m really enjoying the story, too!

Part of it is the resilience of a tiny group of people banding together to survive. It lessens the fear by knowing that it’s possible to survive. But part of it is that the story has a definite, focused conflict. There’s no schmoopy romance (or very little), no time for extensive navel-gazing, and a fair amount of action to keep the story moving. Those are the things I enjoy most in almost any book, this genre just tends to supply it more consistently.

So while I debate the merits of storing rice in recycled 2L bottles, here are some of the books I’ve been both enjoying and fearing:

  • The Last Girl by Joe Hart
  • The Brilliance Trilogy by Marcus Sakey (Brilliance, A Better World, and Written in Fire)
  • The Wayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch (Pines, Wayward, The Last Town)
  • The Origin Mystery series by AG Riddle (The Atlantis Gene, The Atlantis Plague, The Atlantis World)

Do you ever read books or watch movies that intentionally scare you? Why do you think you do it?

Consuming Mass Quantities of Books!

Just for Fun

Because when so many are audiobooks these days, “reading” doesn’t seem like quite the right word, you know?

August book covers | snagged from Goodreads

August book covers | snagged from Goodreads

Even I’m a bit impressed: that’s an average of a book every 2 days. Of course, that’s not how I generally read, but some, like Storm Clouds Rolling In, were an all-day read, so that certainly helps. But mostly it was me being spoiled by the audiobook options and even taking to listening to them while I cook dinner some nights, that helped quite a bit.

The Series-es (or however you pluralize that)

  • The Source*
  • The Void*

The first book in the Witching Savannah series, The Line, I read a while back, probably free via Kindle First or Kindle Select, and either the next book wasn’t available yet or I wasn’t compelled enough to buy it, but when I saw the rest of the trilogy when I was looking for new car “reads”, I remembered the first one fondly enough to give them a whirl.

It’s tough to talk about a series like this because it’s almost impossible to talk about events in books 2 or 3 that would ultimately be spoilers for the previous works. I will say that it deals with a family of supernatural witches in Savannah (my second favorite story locale) and the theory that said magic has it’s source or tether in something called the Line. Ley lines and key lines are common enough concepts, and this one starts off along the same vein (hah!) before turning it on its ear a bit. Book 1, from a year ago or more, was good–typical southern dysfunctional family with the added kapow of magic–and Book 2 (Source) was my favorite of the trilogy. Book 3? Well, again, without giving too much away, the author does something I disagree with quite a bit in tying up the main characters’ loose ends. Then he undoes it, sorta, in a semi-clever but nonetheless clunky manner.

  • Timebound*
  • Time’s Echo
  • Time’s Edge*
  • Time’s Mirror

I really hate when I start a series that hooks me in and then isn’t finished yet. Noooooooo! Seriously, I was horrified to find that the 3rd (Edge and Mirror are supplemetnal novellas, but still worth reading) book in the series won’t be out until mid-October. But that aside…

This is, as you might have guessed, a time-travel series with the protagonist as a 16 year old girl. Again, being that it’s a series it’s tough to talk about specifics, but I found the story captivating and the main character just snarky enough to be believable as a teenager, just obtuse enough to be human, and just stubborn enough to be relatable. If books that deal with multimple timelines or realities make your head hurt (like Crichton’s Timeline or the Matrix movies), this might not be the series for you, but otherwise I recommend it heartily.

And while very much dependent on future technology, a lot of it takes place in the recognizable past. Had I read something like this in middle school, for instance, it would have spurred so many independent study sessions I can’t even tell you. And history is totally not my thing.

Oh, and if you’re a fan of AHS and looking forward to the upcoming Hotel season, Timebound has some verrrry interesting plot points (based in fact) that I was reminded of as the Hotel trailers have started to air.

  • Storm Clouds Rolling In

A series with just one book read, what mischief is this?! Well, next to the rest of the series not being available, I dislike the bait and switch of the first book being available on Kindle Unlimited but the rest of the series (of which there are 7, so far, I think) I’d have to buy. And I’m still debating but, yeah, I’ll be picking them up, too. Once some of my backlog is read through.

At any rate! If you liked Gone With the Wind but, like me, really wanted more of the pre-war part, the Bregdan Chronicles might be worth looking into. Instead of the Deep South where many an antebellum story is set, this book revolves around Virginia, both on a remote tobacco plantation as well as in Richmond. The daughter of the family is certainly no Scarlett, though she does have a certain willful streak and is not interested in becoming the sort of lady her mother has in mind. No, our heroine actually turns out to be a budding abolitionist (not giving away much, the story leads you there from pretty early on), but it’s not as simple as freeing the plantations slaves and moving north, not when her father becomes important to the governor and is trying to reason peace over war.

Apparently this book is based on actual events and people in the area, though is still firmly planted (hah!) in fiction.

Speaking of History 

  • Yellow Crocus*
  • Daughters of the Witching Hill*
  • Melissa Explains it All
  • Paris Time Capsule*

Upon a reader’s recommendation I picked up Yellow Crocus, which starts off in the first person by stating it is a true story before switching to third person not-exactly-omniscient for the main narration. This was a bit disconcerting at first, but we rolled with it, only to have it handle the epilogue back in first person and, of course, it’s not true at all but a complete work of fiction. That’s a sort of mechanical review of the book, I realize, but I didn’t like the misdirection.

The story itself, though, was quite good, despite the early confusion, and also deals with a daughter of a plantation, her relationship and dependence on her nurse, and how the two women’s lives paralleled each other as time went on. I pretty much saw where the story was going to end up, and the main character took an awfully long time to come into her own, but I don’t think that’s actually wrong for the era the story is set in, just a character annoyance I’ve mentioned before.

On the other hand, Daughters of the Witching Hill is, we find, based closely on actual trial reports from the pre-Inquisition Witch Trials of Pendel Forest, though you’d swear from the story itself that everything was made up from whole cloth. It wasn’t a highly active story, but it spread over 3 generations and included the sort of little touches that really made these women very real to the reader. That it was read by someone (audiobook, again) with a very good handle of the vernacular made it all the more pleasant to listen to.

In more recent history, and far lighter, I switched to Melissa Joan Hart’s autobiography and, while a lot of reviews I saw were negative, I really enjoyed reading about her early years in television and thought the anecdotes about her Sabrina years were more than adequate: I didn’t need some sleazy tell-all. Some criticize her insistence that she’s normal as can be considering to be a false front and took offense at her name dropping, but what else can you do when you work with other stars?! I found it refreshing, honest, and down to earth.

And then–do you remember several years ago (2010ish) when the apartment was discovered in Paris that hadn’t been touched since WWII??? I vaguely did, so when I stumbled upon Paris Time Capsule I was curious how the writer would spin the story. According to the notes, the book is based upon that same discovery, the owner was, in fact, a French courtesan of the era, and the painting that was found in the real apartment and in the book was painted by Bouldini, a painter of the era known for painting the fringes of society.

Seeing as this was a bit of a romance, it has a predictable ending in that respect, though it does take quite a while for the main character, Kat, to find her ever-lovin’ spine! Sheesh! As to the bigger question of the story–why was Kat left the Paris apartment and not the family that was, apparently, the woman’s descendant? That one I figured out pretty early on, though not all the details, of course. It didn’t take away from the reading since it was more a passing thought towards the beginning and not something more in-your-face. Hearing about the French countryside and the path a refugee from Paris, escaping on the eve of the Nazi invasion, was quite interesting was very entertaining as they uncovered each piece of the puzzle.

And the Rest…

  • The Mermaid’s Sister*
  • Dead Secret
  • We Were Liars
  • The Rose Girls*

These last four books were just sort of all over the place, thematically.

The Mermaid’s Sister is set in turn-of-the-century America with it’s peddlers and traveling medicine shows, and a woman on a hill who adopts two girls–one left for her in a sea shell, the other brought by the stork. The shell child starts to transform into a mermaid at age 16 and a plan is formed to bring her to the sea before she wastes away to nothing. While first her sister and then their family friend are, in turn, committed to breaking this “curse” the continue on and I began to wonder how we were only halfway through the book when we were so close to the obvious ending?

And then something happens to completely change the story and then I knew how we were only halfway through. I was also suddenly more interested in the story at this point, as the first half was sweet, but not exactly gripping. The second half was far more entertaining and satisfactory as far as character growth went. The ending was exactly as I suspected, but there were some nice twists in there that made it that much better.

Fast forward a few centuries to modern-day England and you’ve got the setting of a typical whodunnit that was a bit sluggish throughout, really. I set it down several times in favor of other books throughout the first half of the month.

We Were Liars was the book club pick. Not too far in there’s a starling passage that turns out to be nothing more than a teenage melodramatic metaphor, something that is a bit of a hallmark of the book. With a definite poor-little-rich-girl vibe (I mean, really, broken home notwithstanding, her family owns a private island near Martha’s Vineyard where they all summer, the whole clan, and the kids run rampant and unsupervised), the teenage narrator dines out on metaphors like they’re candy. Seriously, it was a bit much. Despite all of this I was actually enjoying the book after it got going and as the main character struggles to regain her memory after an accident 2 years prior, and then…

I swear I’ve seen a someecard or similar that says something to the effect of you can kill any character you want, just don’t kill the dog? I can’t find it, but I wanted to use that as a virtual bookmark for We Were Liars. Yeah. Forewarned and all that.

Still, the ending was not exactly what I expected it to be, but I got to the correct conclusion several pages before the “protagonist” and at least she then has the decency to cut out all the melodrama in the face of true tragedy.

Ending the month was something decidedly lighter, with The Rose Girls telling the story of three girls recovering after the death of their mother, secrets revealed, lives set right, and a big old manor house (complete with moat!) saved from ruin. I was just a sweet story, overall, with some laugh-out-loud moments here and there and an ultimately satisfying ending. It was exactly what I needed as I packed kits and dealt with website stuff at the end of the month.

At the beginning of the year I set my reading goal at 75 books, figuring that if I was mainly reading at night before bed, two books a week (for 100 books/year) might be pushing it. Obviously that was before several things changed and before I joined Kindle Unlimited. Now I’m at 66 books for the year, so will likely reach my goal in September. Maybe I’ll make 100 my stretch goal or, maybe, I’ll switch things up and not read as much? Yeah, okay, I don’t see that really happening, but even I have to admit my book consumption tops even my summer reading mania during my school years.

Read anything good lately? I’m obviously open to suggestions!

(*denotes an audiobook)

July Reads: WWII Aliens are Responsible for Everything!

Everyday Adventures

Or so some of this month’s books would have you believe.

July reads--book cover images via Goodreads

July reads–book cover images via Goodreads

I started the month with the Origin Mystery series by AG Riddle:

  • The Atlantis Gene
  • The Atlantis Plague
  • The Atlantis World

What does genetic-level autism research have to do with the lost city of Atlantis? And what does a clandestine, worldwide paramilitary group have to do with either of the above? Excellent questions!

What started out sounding like your usual doctor does good, powerful people make something evil out of it, the world is about to end story trips its way into WWII Nazi weapons and a conspiracy that moves around the world in three books describing ancient races, extinction level events, and genetic experiments over millennia. Then it goes to space.

This trilogy is long and involved, but it definitely leaves you wondering what the author is going to pull out of his ass next. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief, but it’s not tough because the side of the world we see int he Origin Mysteries is complex and fleshed out and has just enough recognizable truth to it to make the lie that is fiction work.

Coincidentally I also started reading the Wayward Pines books about the same time:

  • Pines
  • Wayward
  • The Last Town

I’d watched the first several episodes and decided I was intrigued enough to find out “the rest of the story” as it was. Right around the time that Riddle was explaining about how a bigger portion of the earth was covered in water than currently, due to bombs set off in Antarctica (not really a spoiler, more a plot device, and an effective one), we have Crouch explaining how our DNA is degrading each generation and we’re going to die out.

Common elements of the two series are the extinction level events, bands of survivors, and suspension chambers that make the dead not exactly so (though in different ways).

Having completed both the book trilogy and the television version, I think I prefer the book’s “ending” over the screen adaptation. If you ever thought there was something… more to Pilcher and co., you definitely want the background that’s in the books.

The combination of these different dystopias is enough to make someone want to pack their bug out bag! Sheesh!

Needing a break from the doom and gloom, I went hunting for something lighthearted and came across the debut novel by Hunter Murphy: Imogene in New Orleans. It’s a murder mystery, sure, but set in one of my favorite places on earth and the main characters have a bulldog sidekick. It was a sure bet, right?


I had trouble connecting to the characters, they were all very one-note to me and far too many of them. It’s Character Soup! You have the titular character, an old woman from Alabama who is, at best, a caricature of the cantankerous spitfire; Miss Marple she is not. Her son, Billy, is the worrier, his partner, Jackson, is eventually revealed as the man of action among them, though his actions are often ill-considered. Their friends, whom they are visiting in New Orleans on holiday, Neil and Allen, are the hot-head and silent type, respectively, and despite being such close friends Billy and Jackson still can’t help but suspect them of doing-in their mutual friend Glennway–a supposedly brilliant artist beloved by many in the community.

Now, that’s a lot of people to meet in the first bit of a book, but soon we also have Lt. Rogers (a dirty cop–and, no, I’m not giving anything away, the fact that he’s not on the up and up is painfully transparent as soon as we meet him), hotelier Hill (snob), Lena (the local counterpart to Imogene, to the point that you could almost swap the two and make no impact on the story whatsoever) and the colorful (in name, at least) Buddy, Catfish, TH, Canebreak, and Blue Moon–code names bestowed upon friends and lovers in the dead man’s journal, which Imogene swipes from the crime scene.

Aside from the 2-dimensional characters and the stilted dialog, if the dead man is so freaking famous an artist in the city of New Orleans, exactly why wasn’t there more outcry when he died? Why was there only this one cop “handling” the investigation so ham-handedly than this Scooby Gang had to step in?

I put the book down several time, only finishing it because I hate to leave stories unfinished. There are, apparently, more books to come with the Billy, Jackson, Imogene and Goose (the bulldog–poor thing didn’t even get to stumble over any clues himself, he’s just barking window dressing). Maybe in future books the author will find his character’s other qualities, but I’m not curious enough to pledge my support at this time.

So it was back to history of varying degrees.

  • Miramont’s Ghost
  • Maude
  • War Brides

Miramont’s Ghost is a creative stringing together of some known events surrounding the Catholic priest (Jean Baptiste Francolon) who built Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs, Colorado, back in the late 1800s. Of course, it starts way before the castle is even a thought, back with the family in France, the grandmother and then granddaughter who had visions, and the lengths certain family members would go to protect their little (and not so little) secrets.

I didn’t know until the reading the author’s note at the end that this story was based on real people and real places. Even though there’s a lot of conjecture in the book based on what is known, it lends an already fantastical and macabre story some heft and credence!

About the time that Miramont’s story is ending, along comes Maude, a girl born at the turn of the century in the Midwest, loses her parents in a fire, and the tragedy doesn’t stop there. She lives through both wars, the loss of a husband, a then the child, nursing people through the Spanish flu (which, incidentally, was a pivot point in the Origin Mystery books, above–it’s more than a little disconcerting when book worlds collide like that), a second mother in law who literally wants her dead, the Dustbowl and the Depression, moving finally to Detroit where things pick up a bit for what’s left of her family, only to lose more sons to war and illness, respectively, and a daughter to a freak car accident. She supports herself and her family, first by taking in sewing as a young wife in the Midwest then, in Detroit, eventually buying property and running a series of boarding houses until she no longer had the strength to do so.

It’s an astonishing look of the day to day existence of someone who lived through the greater part of the last century. Maude’s granddaughter, Donna, wrote it all down at the urging of her own daughter when she went to retell the stories she’d been told on weekend and summer visits to her grandmother’s home.

Finally, War Brides.

I don’t know what it is, but the 1940s and WWII have fascinated me since my middle school years and continues to this day. I think it’s the whole triumph of the human spirit, thing, if I had to guess, and reading about how people dealt with daily life while juggling the needs of a country at war, well, it’s pretty impressive! Doesn’t hurt that the music and clothing styles back then were pretty awesome, too.

So War Brides is set, primarily, in a place called Cromarsh Priors on the Sussex coast of England. A little village that ends up being home to its native residents as well as an Admiral’s daughter (her godmother is one of the important ladies of the town), a New Orleans belle escaping bad situation (after tricking a Naval officer from another big family into marrying her and bringing her to England), and refugees from London (including a young Jewish girl who barely escaped Austria ahead of the mob by marrying a boy from their city who had a teaching position at Oxford). At first the book was just the day to day adjustments having to be made for rationing, air raids, etc., but instead of being dull and plodding, it was fascinating to get to know more about the characters and see the minutiae of their lives. As the war goes on and the possibility that a German sympathizer is in their midst, perhaps even aiding the air raids, things get even more interesting, and carry us through to the somewhat surprising, yet fitting, end.

And squeaking in before the end of the month, I also read The Sisterhood (not pictured above), by the same author as War Brides.

Like War Brides, it flips between the present and the past, but where War Brides was bookended by the present but spent the majority of the book in WWII, The Sisterhood flips back and forth a bit more. While some reviewers complained it was like reading two different books at once, I didn’t see it as quite that disparate, though I think the two parts of the narrative could have been woven together a bit more. The story revolves around a convent, more specifically an Order of nuns with locations in Spain and South America, their story told via their Chronicle, which is currently in the hands of a teenager who was adopted from the South American convent who, as an adult, goes to Spain to research an obscure artist for a scholarship thesis.

Her plane detoured, the naive Menina gets separated from the tour group she’s loosely connected to and attempts to make her way to Madrid via bus. Of course things don’t go smoothly and she winds up at, you guessed it, a little convent in the Spanish mountains, stranded there during the week before Easter, no phone, no electricity, and nothing to do but look through the old, dirt-encrusted paintings at the convent and maybe she can find something for the remaining nuns to sell so they can have a little money to fix up their crumbling convent.

I enjoyed the chronicle of the convent part of the story much more than Menina’s at least until she comes into her own near the end of the book–I have little patience with milquetoast heroines, which is what her sheltered, small-town upbringing created. By the end, though, I liked our main character far more and loved the way the author handled the not-exactly-an-epilogue. To say why would give away the ending, and this is one of those books I’d actually recommend to any fans of historical fiction. Though Catholics should be advised that there’s some Davinci Code-level alternate religious history speculation that seriously pissed off one Amazon reviewer. That just made me more curious to read it.

I’m looking forward to more historical fiction in August! What are you reading?