"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, August 28, 2023

TTT: Recent water-related reads

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent water-related reads. 

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. // The women at the center of this story live on the Korean Island of Jeju, in the East China Sea. They join collectives and dive for seafood and other delicacies without using air tanks.

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout. // Lucy and her ex decide to leave New York City at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. They move to Maine and sequester alone together in a little community by the sea (the Atlantic Ocean.)

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder by David Grann. // The shipwreck occurs off the Patagonian Coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. // The four siblings in the story love to surf and they often do so on the beach down from their home in Malibu, California on the Pacific Ocean.

Island Home by Tim Winton. // This memoir is about the author's home, Australia, most are set where he lives in Western Australia on the Indian Ocean.

Starfish by Lisa Fipps.// The main character, an overweight, bullied, young teenager finds comfort and solace in the family swimming pool.

A Swim in the Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders. // Saunders uses seven stories by Russian authors as his examples. In one of them, "Gooseberries" by Chekhov, a character goes for a swim in the rain in a pond outside the manor house. 

The Soul of An Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. // The author's introduction to octopuses begins at the Boston Aquarium and includes a dive to see these creatures in the wild in the Gulf of Mexico. The author also visits the Seattle Aquarium and talks about some of the biggest octopuses in the world which live in the waters of the Puget Sound.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson. // The main character is born on an unnamed Caribbean island (but it is modeled after Jamaica). She becomes a strong open water swimmer in the Caribbean Sea.
African Town by Irene Latham and Charles Waters. // This is the story of the people aboard the last slave ship illegally transporting slaves to America in 1860. The humans were kidnapped from their homes in Nigeria, transported across the Atlantic Ocean and then hidden aboard their ship in the swampland of the Alabama River evading authorities who were searching for their captors. 
The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken. // The author visited London after the death of her mother, attempting to retrace the steps the two took together on a previous trip. At one point she rides the big wheel called the London Eye, followed by a boat ride on the River Thames.

The Loneliest Polar Bear: A True Story of Survival and Peril on the Edge of a Warming World by Kale Williams. // In addition to info on polar bears it talks about the polar cap and Arctic Ocean melting due to global warming.

I found some pretty tricky examples, huh?


Saturday, August 26, 2023

Sunday Salon -- Barbie Edition

My Barbie family: My original Barbie (Circa 1963/64); Skipper and her friend, Skooter (Circa 1965); My second Barbie -- or else it was a Barbie head replacement on an older body; Allan, Ken's buddy (I've lost his clothes) and Skipper's friend, Ricky (Circa 1965/1966); Family portrait; Francie, Barbie's cousin (Circa 1967.)

Weather: It would be lovely if it weren't for the smoke in the air from far off forest fires. Temperatures in the 70s. Wonderful end-of-summer weather, with one exception, and beautiful sunsets, caused by the smoke.

Barbie Movie: My husband, daughters, and I went to see the Barbie movie two weeks ago and all of us loved it. LOVED IT. I am scheming on going again. It is funny, poignant, exciting, empowering, and all around delightful. What are you waiting for if you haven't seen it? The video is about the making of a scene in the movie where Ken (Ryan Gosling) is bemoaning his life and love for Barbie but in the end he realizes he's "Kenough." I've watched this clip about ten times and will probably watch it ten times more.

If you hate(d) Barbie: This movie is for you! (Official trailer.)

My Barbie family: See photo above. My daughters, who have been to the movie twice, recognized Allan in the movie because I have an Allan doll. My friend, Kay, had a Ken doll but we didn't play with the boy dolls very much as children. My Allan is in great shape but I've lost his clothes. I bet one of my siblings have them. (Grace? Kathy?) Aren't the dolls cute? I didn't realize until I looked through my dolls today, preparing for their photoshoot, just how rare Skipper's friends, Ricky and Skooter dolls, are.

Weird Barbie: Kate McKinnon plays Weird Barbie in the movie. She is hilarious. I didn't have a weird Barbie but my daughters assured me that they had one. They thought she tasted like chicken so they'd bite her. Gross! Anyway, Weird Barbie reminded me of something I read in a book about Barbie once. I thought I owned the book, so I went hunting for it this week. I didn't find that book but I found another one which I quickly reread, The Art of Barbie.

Barbie books:
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone. The book begins with the creation of the Mattel company, and some biographical information about its founder, Ruth Handler. It then goes into describes how Barbie has influenced materialism, body-image, multiculturalism, nudity, and even art. Stone cleverly interspersed quotes from average and famous people as they reflected on Barbie's influence on their own lives. The book also features many photos, both color and black & white, to show us the evolution of the doll. The funniest chapter included descriptions of what people did to Barbie after they outgrew playing with their dolls. Many found ways to torture her, including the person who took the Marie Antoinette Barbie and cut off her head, even adding ketchup as fake blood (p. 88). "Weird Barbie" embodies the totality of these abuses in the movie. Here is a link to my review of this book from 2010.
  • The Art of Barbie: Artists Celebrate the World's Favorite Doll edited by Craig Yoe (1994). 100 artists, fashion designers, models, and photographers were asked to contribute to this project and most enthusiastically participated. The results are a true celebration of the original dream girl. The photos below are just a small representation of their contributions: 
    The Art of Barbie: Top L-R---"Commuter Set 1959" gouache by Isaac Mizrahi; "Barbie Family Tree" acrylic on Masonite by Laura Levine; "Barbie and What's His Name Get Married" photograph by Hiro Yamagata. Bottom L-R ---"Barbie in Beatsville" Pen and ink by J.D. King; "Put Another Shrimp on the Barbie, Mate" staged by Rick Tharp; "Huh Huh Huh. Cool. Yeah. Heh. Heh. Heh." Pen and ink by Bryon Moore.

Barbie movie has MAGA Republicans in a tizzy: (Guardian, July 20, 2023) On issue after issue Republicans have fought to undermine Barbie's motto: "We girls can do anything." So when the movie was released with broad popular appeal, they decided Barbie was too "woke" and the movie should be banned. It reminds me of the DeSantis war on Disney because the cooperation refuses to discriminate against any people, even LGPTQ+ folks.  If you are a MAGA supporter and you are reading this, please remind yourself how much you loved Barbie as a child. In fact, remind yourself how your life was before, when you were happy and not angry all the time about cultural issues. Ask yourself, were you happier then or now? It is okay to love Barbie, and Disney, and books, and your neighbors, even if they have different beliefs than you. 

Mike Luckovich / Copyright 2023

Walt Handelsman / Copyright 2023

Have the best day ever! XOXOXOX

"Kiss Kiss" Color print and rubber stamp by John Baldessari.


Thursday, August 24, 2023


The Loneliest Polar Bear: A True Story of Survival and Peril on the Edge of a Warming World by Kale Williams

Book Beginnings quote: 
Abandoned: She weighed scarcely more than a pound, roughly the size of a squirrel. Her eyes and ears are fused shut. Her only sense of the world around her came from smell, and her nose led her in one direction: toward the gravity and heat of her mother, a six-hundred-pound polar bear named Aurora.
Friday56 quote:
Until the winter of 1918, when death came to Wales on a dogsled.
The heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of an abandoned polar bear cub named Nora and the humans working tirelessly to save her and her species, whose uncertain future in the accelerating climate crisis is closely tied to our own.

Six days after giving birth, a polar bear named Aurora got up and left her den at the Columbus Zoo, leaving her tiny, squealing cub to fend for herself. Zookeepers entrusted with her care felt they had no choice: They would have to raise one of the most dangerous predators in the world themselves, by hand. Over the next few weeks, a group of veterinarians and zookeepers would work around the clock to save the cub, whom they called Nora.

Three decades before Nora's birth, her father, Nanuq, was orphaned when an Inupiat hunter killed his mother, leaving Nanuq to be sent to a zoo. That hunter, Gene Agnaboogok, now faces some of the same threats as the wild bears near his Alaskan village of Wales, on the westernmost tip of the North American continent. As sea ice diminishes and temperatures creep up year-after-year, Gene and the polar bears--and everyone and everything else living in the far north--are being forced to adapt. Not all of them will succeed.

The Loneliest Polar Bear explores the fraught relationship humans have with the natural world, the exploitative and sinister causes of the environmental mess we find ourselves in, and how the fate of polar bears is not theirs alone. (Publisher)
Review: I honestly only read this book because it was a book club selection but I found it to be a very compelling and alarming account of what is happening in our world due to our climate crisis. The story of Nora, the abandoned polar bear, and her survival is the hook to pull the other details along. Her story is interspersed with information of what is happening in the arctic area where polar bears live and the historic home of the Inupiat people whose traditional way of life is also in peril. Author Kale Williams, a Oregon journalist looks at the history of climate change, with an eye to what is happening in Alaska.

Initially I liked Nora's story but found the information about our climate crisis to be a bit heavy handed and I often felt scolded. But as I read on it became apparent to me that Kale Williams was actually doing a masterful job of consolidating a lot of points of information into a cohesive story of how we got to where we are today with our climate crisis. The book isn't very long, just a bit over 200 pages so it quite digestible. I know we will have a good discussion during book club, too. 

Polar bears make good ambassadors to make us care about what is happening to their territory and our world. I've fallen in love with Nora and want to go visit her in the Oregon Zoo in Portland! See her in action below.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. First Line Friday is hosted by Reading is My Super Power. Share the opening quote from current book.The Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.

A SOTH Book Club selection for September, 2023.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Sunday Salon

Cousins horsing around in the hot tub

It was HOT and muggy early in the week but it cooled off on Thursday. The weekend would have been lovely except the smoke from forest fires moved into our air space. Sigh.

Cousins: My grandsons only have two cousins, but they have scads of 2nd and 3rd cousins. They seem to delight in playing with all their cousins above all others. Hilarity and bedlam always ensues. When I was scheduled to babysit my cousin's daughter's son (my grandson's third cousin) this week I invited my daughter and her sons over to play. We served corn dogs for dinner (big hit!) and the boys ran around for two hours straight. We only had to get Boo-Boo Bunny out of the freezer once and only needed three band-aids. This old song, "Cousins" by Tom Chapin, sort of sums up the whole experience. By the end of the evening all three boys were belting it out, too. "Cousins. Cousins, Here come the boys. Bedlam, Mayhem. Noise. Noise. Nosie."

Joe Biden’s 23 greatest achievements as president of the United States … so far. Here are the three to get you started, read at The Smile News ---
  1. (1.) Passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to increase investment in the national network of bridges and roads, airports, public transport and national broadband internet, as well as waterways and energy systems.
  2. (7.) Cut child poverty in half through the American Rescue Plan.
  3. (18.) Created more jobs in one year (6.6 million) than any other president in U.S. history.
Cruelty: Ever wonder how so many people can follow leaders who are so cruel? For some, cruelty is the point. They are cruel themselves and so they like a leader who is also cruel. But there is a connection between cruelty and stupidity. Listen to this short 2 minutes segment of a graduation speech by the governor of Illinois. He makes the point that kindness and being smart go hand in hand.

Reading and blogging:
Library kids ---hope for the world!!!
On the lighter side:

1. Check out this TikTok link. Hilarious. https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZT8NTjKpH/  
(I couldn't figure out a way to embed it, but click the link if you have TikTok.






Lego hats on toes! Showing off!

 Happy Sunday!


Saturday, August 19, 2023

Bookish and Other Thoughts

Just a few musings for this Saturday...

Middlemarch -- I started the Middlemarch by George Eliot read-along on July 27th. The goal is to read a chapter a day which means we'll (me and the other participants) finish the book toward the end of October. I lost my way almost immediately while on the family reunion vacation. But after reading two chapters a day for a week I am back on track. Two observations so far: The book isn't as daunting as my mind had it made up to be and yet reading two chapters/day is too much. So I will slowly creep along reading a chapter a day until its completion. I am not even sure why I wanted to read the book in the first place. It is as if I think in order to pass the life test I must prove I've read all the great classics before I die.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest -- I have an original paperback of this famous novel, a 1962 version. I think I've owned it since I was in college in the mid-1970s, probably purchasing it at the bookstore where I worked parttime while in school. Clearly I have carried the thing around with me long enough, I should have read it by now. Oddly somewhere along the way I bought another copy, forgetting about the first. This past week I finally decided it was time and began reading it. Man, the print is small. I wish I'd read it when my eyes were better. Ha!

Book club selections -- one of my book clubs meets this week. We will be making selections for the next three or four months. Our rather long list of options will likely stymie us. Can you offer any details on any of these books which will help us move the book up or down on the list? (The number in the parenthesis reflect how many members have expressed interest. There are eight members but one person hasn't weighed in.)
  1. I Have Some Questions for You by Makkai (3)
  2. Birnam Wood by Catton  (2)
  3. Maame by George  (5)
  4. Lady Tan's Circle of Women by See  (5)
  5. The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger (4)
  6. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett  (3)
  7. The Covenant of Water by Verghese (6)
  8. Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by McBride (6)
  9. The Rabbit Hutch by Gunty (3)
  10. Erotic Stories of Pujabi Widows by Jaswal (4)
  11. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Dugoni (3)
  12. Our Missing Hearts by Ng (3)
    • Note, book club met on this past Wednesday and selected Tom Lake, The Covenant of Water, Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, and The Rabbit Hutch as our next four choices. All of us wanted most of the books and will hang on to the list for our next selection session but by then who knows what other books will shove their way onto it. I've read #1 and 12. That leaves me with only six I'll have to read on my own.

Big book season -- I read a headline the other day "We Are Entering Big Books Season". Of course, I didn't save the link but the headline gave me moment to pause and think. Is there a big book season? I participate in a yearly challenge during the summer months to read books over 400 pages (See Book by Book Big Book Summer Challenge.) I bet most people think that late fall or winter months are the best time to read long/big books, not summer when we should all be rollicking outside all the time. Well, this summer has turned into a 'big book summer' for me. I have spent more time inside escaping the heat than ever before. So far I have completed seven 400+page books since the challenge began on Memorial Day. While searching for the above mentioned headline I stumbled upon this blog post about 10 fantastic big books. Of the ten, I've read six and I loved them all. Guess I'm a big book gal after all!

A moment of community -- In this day and age it is rare to feel a sense of community very often. Yesterday Don and I were out for a drive in his little convertible. We were driving along a shaded road alongside a small lake when up ahead we noticed a car stopped with its flashers on. As we crept forward we saw the reason why. A tree had just fallen across the road. The man in the first car was attempting to clear what he could. My husband got out to help. One by one, two by two, so did people from the other cars. Soon 10+ people were working together on a common cause. The mess was cleared in no time. "Many hands make light work." As each person/couple wandered back to their cars, I couldn't help but think this is the way things are supposed to be -- all of us working on a similar project, pulling in the same direction.

Maui -- So many of my thoughts are turning to Maui after the disaster of this past week. We visited Lahaina for the first time this past February and have such fond memories of it. Our hearts are broken for all Hawaiians for the loss of a sacred space.

I purchased this beautiful signed print at the gift shop of the museum store near the magnificent banyan tree. Now it is a priced possession.


Thursday, August 17, 2023

Review and quotes: LONG DIVISION

Long Division by Kiese Laymon

Book Beginnings quote: 
LaVander Peeler cares too much what white folks think about him

Friday56 quote:
Hurricane Katrina tore up Grandma's old shotgun house eight years earlier, but within a year, she's gotten a new shotgun house built on the same spot.
Written in a voice that’s alternately humorous, lacerating, and wise, Long Division features two interwoven stories. In the first, it’s 2013: after an on-stage meltdown during a nationally televised quiz contest, fourteen-year-old Citoyen “City” Coldson becomes an overnight YouTube celebrity. The next day, he’s sent to stay with his grandmother in the small coastal community of Melahatchie, where a young girl named Baize Shephard has recently disappeared.

Before leaving, City is given a strange book without an author called Long Division. He learns that one of the book’s main characters is also named City Coldson—but Long Division is set in 1985. This 1985-version of City, along with his friend and love interest, Shalaya Crump, discovers a way to travel into the future, and steals a laptop and cellphone from an orphaned teenage rapper called...Baize Shephard. They ultimately take these items with them all the way back to 1964, to help another time-traveler they meet to protect his family from the Ku Klux Klan.

Review: I'll tell you what. That summary makes Long Division by Laymon seem like a normal time-traveling story. Well, I'm here to tell you it is not 'normal.' It is quite possibly one of the most confusing books I've ever read, and I've read If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Calvino, so that should tell you how weird and confusing this book is.

First, the book is set in Mississippi, starting in 2013. City is a young high school student who speaks in a sort of Black vernacular that to my Pacific NW ears doesn't make sense. He is selected to participate in this all-state contest similar to a spelling bee but a sentence bee instead. LaVander Peeler is also another participant in the the contest. But unlike City, LaVander speaks very clearly, using "proper" English. This really bugs City. So even before the contest City and LaVander get into a tiff at school and City has to meet with the principal. It is during this confrontation that City is given the book Long Division, where he learns there is another Citoyen Coldson living in Mississippi, in the same town where his grandma lives, only in the year 1985. 

After the ruckus caused by City at the sentence contest, his mother sends him to live with his grandma for a while in Melahatchie, Mississippi, a town decimated by Hurricane Katrina a few years before. While there City is confronted over and over again by the racism in our society and City keeps questioning why Blacks have to put up with so much. At this point there is a confusing few chapters that I didn't really understand. End of part one.

Part two. Turn the book over and begin reading. This time the year is 1985 and City is visiting his grandma in Melahatchie but he lives in Chicago, not Jackson. He and a girl across the street agree to figure out this time-travel portal and end up in 2013 where they meet rapper Baize Shephard. City steals her laptop and phone and travel back but this time to 1964, after meeting a fellow time traveler who wants their help in saving him from the KKK. It gets completely and 100% confusing at this point, then the end of the book happens with City back in 2013 writing about his experiences in a book titled Long Division.

I bet you are wondering why I continued reading such a confusing book, aren't you? Well, it was a book club selection and I try my hardest to always finish those books, even if I don't like them. Our club meeting where we discussed the book was oddly hilarious. No one knew what was happening and couldn't figure out the timeline and how everything tied together. Since the book was part of a library kit (15 books + discussion questions + background information on the author) we assume there is some sort of vetting done by the library beforehand.. That may not be the case with Long Division. My biggest guess is that the library selected it because it is an anti-racism novel. If we weren't all trying so hard to figure out the plot, I think all of agreed that the book made some pretty valid points about:
  • Racism in schools and other organizations that try to prove they aren't racist by holding contests, and other events, where Blacks are promoted so that the whites can say, "See, we aren't racist or else a person of color wouldn't have won."
  • Even in Black churches there is a form of racism and hypocrisy.  For example City doesn't want to pray to the white Jesus picture hanging in the sanctuary.
  • Racism has changed a little since 1964, but not much.
  • Blacks are expected to "take it" without retaliation. We whites can be awful to you, but you can't be awful to us back.
Even though the book is confusing, I did enjoy the clever 'book one', turn the book over, 'book two' aspect. I know the book had very valid points to make and though our discussion showed off our collected confusion, we did have a fairly good discussion about racism/antiracism. And that made the read worthwhile. 

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. First Line Friday is hosted by Reading is My Super Power. Share the opening quote from current book.The Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.


Monday, August 14, 2023

TTT: Characters from Classic Literature all mixed up

Top Ten Tuesday: Classic book characters all mixed together.
 Today's prompt is to mix together characters from two books. Let's see what I can do with fairly familiar characters from classic books.

  1. Holden Caufield (Catcher in the Rye) + John Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility) Both are sort of 'bad boys' in literature. If they teamed up I bet they could really cause some problems but hopefully would see the errors in their ways.
  2. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre) + Fannie Price (Mansfield Park) Both Fannie and Jane are interested in men who are out of their class. Both are also raised by aunts who don't love them and take advantage of them. I think they could be good friends and confidents. 
  3. Huck Finn (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) + Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings series) Can you imagine an adventure with these two together. It would likely be a lot more lighthearted than the one Frodo took the first time around.
  4. Gandalf (Lord of the Rings series) + Dumbledore (Harry Potter series). Oh the magic that would be had. Plus I always get the two mixed up anyway.
  5. Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes stories) + James Bond (Casino Royale) Solving the mystery but with all the cool gadgets and tricks.
  6. Yuri Zhivago (Dr. Zhivago) + Tertius Lydgate (Middlemarch) Both are doctors who fall in love with the wrong woman. Maybe they could talk about their problems over a game of golf once a week?
  7. Rhett Butler (Gone with the Wind) + Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby) Both men were in love with a woman they couldn't really contain or control. Only thing, Butler behaved like he didn't give a sh*t. Gatsby could do with lessons on that attitude before his untimely death.
  8. Anne Eliot (Persuasion) + Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility) Both women were patient, loving, and kind even when circumstances brought on by their family could have driven them crazy. These two gals could really lean on each other for strength.
  9. Ignatius J. Riley (The Confederacy of Dunces) + Zaphod Beeblebrox (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) They are both such zany, quirky characters. Why not get them together to see what happens?
  10. Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) + Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) Both have such unique literary voices. Why not get them together to use their imaginations to come up with a better world?


Sunday, August 13, 2023


David Grann

My family and I recently finished listening to David Grann's most recent book: The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder. Thinking about the book, I realized that I never wrote a review for Killers of Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, which I read in 2018. In fact, Flower Moon is on the list of books I hope to write a long overdue review for part of a personal 2022 challenge. While I'm at it, why not highlight The Lost City of Z, and figure out what other books of his I still need to read? 

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
 (Doubleday/Random House, 2009)
       Back in 2018 our daughter and grandson joined us for 1000+ miles of driving. Obviously we had to select an audiobook that would hold all of our attention but also one that we didn't have to hang on every detail. With a one-year-old in the car, that wouldn't happen. We selected The Lost City of Z. I had read the book, which was published in 2009, several years ago for one of my two book clubs. Then my second book club selected it so I wanted to re-read it to refresh my memory.
       Back in 1925 a British explorer, Percy Fawcett, his son, and another man went missing in the Amazon. They were on a quest to find the Lost City of Z, or El Dorado. Their disappearance made headlines around the world. For years people worldwide followed Fawcett's career and we certain that he would be the one to finally find "Z". After his disappearance many other people attempted to find Fawcett and his party, going on the clues he left behind. Many went missing themselves. By some counts over 100 people died looking for Fawcett over the years.
       When David Grann stumbled upon some old diaries belonging to Fawcett, he too set out to get answers to the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century. But the technological advances in the 21st century were in Grann's favor, like cars, airplanes, radios, and phones. But even with all the advances Grann "found himself, like the generations who preceded him, being irresistibly drawn into the jungle's green hell. His quest for the truth & discoveries about Fawcett's fate and Z form the heart of this complexly enthralling narrative."
       It is hard to imagine, but there are still tribes living in the Amazon that have never interacted with society.  Parts of the Amazon basin are almost as foreign to us as other planets! I'm pretty sure this is an unintended effect of reading the book but I have determined to NEVER visit the area...way too many treacherous insects, reptiles, and unknown diseases! And now I am planning a trip to South America and will visit a tributary of the Amazon river. Eek!
       The audiobook was narrated by David Deakins. We had no trouble hearing him or understanding his narration. That is a big deal when there is a lot of road noise to overcome. My husband and I have since viewed the film made about the lost city of Z. I didn't find it nearly as interesting as the book.

Rating: 4.75 stars.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
(Doubleday, 2017)
     Back in the 1920s, the Osage Indians in Oklahoma were the richest people per capita in the world after oil was found on their land. Many lived the lives of the super wealthy but then an odd thing started to happen them. One by one they were being killed off. Clearly they were victims of racism. Families watched their members being murdered by mysterious circumstances or poisonings. If anyone attempted to investigate the murders, they would be murdered, too. As the death toll passed twenty-four, and the local sheriff seemed to be uninterested in doing anything (or was in on it), the FBI was called in. The FBI was a new organization and this was its first major murder investigation. But the FBI kept bungling the case until a former Texas Ranger, Tom White, was called in and he was able to unravel the mystery by putting in place an undercover team, including the only Native American in the bureau. They eventually exposed on the of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.  Though the official death count is 24, it is likely that the murders and killings numbered well over 100. It was a real life murder mystery more bizarre than anything ever thought up for fiction.
      David Grann briefly inserted himself in the story as he traveled from New York, where he lives, to Oklahoma to interview family members about their family histories and to hear stories on on-going racism/discrimination.
      My husband listened to the audiobook together in early 2018, narrated by Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, and Danny Campbell. Patton is one of our favorite narrators. He has that perfect voice for such a story. Don and I were both shocked to learn about this part of American history since neither of us had ever heard anything about it in all our high school and college history classes. For some reason, though I thought the book excellent and we had a terrific book club discussion, I never reviewed the book on my blog. I did, however, leave this quick reaction to it on Goodreads, "A jaw-dropping event from history which is so, so shameful yet it has almost completely fallen off the history books. I hope everyone reads this book, which reads like the best murder mystery. What the Osage tribe had to put up with is just shameful, shameful, shameful."

Rating: 5 stars.

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder
(Doubleday, 2023)
     Once again my family was on the move, taking a car trip together. This time I selected a David Grann book, The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder, without consulting the rest of the family since we'd had such success on previous trips listening to his true-life stories.
     The Wager is a recounting of what happened to the HMS Wager, part of the fleet of British ships which left Britain in the 1740s on a secret mission to capture 'the prize of the oceans', a Spanish galleon filled with treasure. The HMS Wager sunk off the coast of Patagonia and the rest of the fleet assumed that all men were lost and continued on without them. Many were lost, but others survived and got to a small island where they were marooned for many months. During that time the chain of command broke down to a point of murder and mutiny. One group decided to take a barge they had rescued from the wreck, heading toward Brazil, 3000 miles away. A small group remained on the island with the captain. This group was finally rescued by local hunters and boatsmen. On January 28, 1742, the first group floated into a harbor in Brazil. The world was amazed by the story of shipwreck and mayhem these men told. Then six months later, the captain and two others were found in Peru. They told a different story. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death--for whomever the court found guilty could hang. "The powerful narrative reveals the deeper meaning of the events on The Wager, showing that it was not only the captain and crew who ended up on trial, but the very idea of empire" (Publisher). 
     I usually love listening to audiobooks. Quite often I will have a more positive experience with a book I've listened to than my friends did with the print version of the same book. This time, I suspect, the opposite was true. All of us -- my husband, daughter, and myself-- found listening to The Wager to be a tedious experience. The information was interesting, it was just hard to listen to it. My daughter rated the the book with a 1.5 because, she said, it was so boring. My husband gave it 2.5 stars, saying he just didn't learn that much. When I asked him if he knew the information about the Wager before he admitted he didn't. It just wasn't delivered in a format that was stimulating. I rated the book higher than the others, 3 stars. The Wager was well-written and Grann did a lot to bring the story alive, but like the others, I just wasn't captivated. By contrast, my nephew recently told me that The Wager is one of his favorite nonfiction books of the last few years. He explained it was an excellent book to analyze leadership styles and he often recommends it to people seeking leadership positions in business. What is an interesting contrast between his experience with the book and ours.
     One intriguing thing I did learn. Though The HMS Wager was shipwrecked and its crew were marooned or didn't survive, many locations in Patagonia (Chile) are named for the crew and the ship. For example, the island where they were marooned is named Wager Island still today.

Rating: 3 stars.

David Grann is a staff writer for the New Yorker. The Lost City of Z was his first book. Several of his books and short stories have been made into movies and/or TV series. For example, one of his New Yorker short stories, "The White Darkness, was later expanded into a book. Mixing text and photography, it documented the modern explorer Henry Worsley’s quest to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Ernest Shackleton, and traverse Antarctica alone. The story is currently being adapted into a series for Apple starring Tom Hiddleston" (DavidGrann.com) This is the next book by Grann I'd like to read. Though I am also intrigued by his The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, which was named by Men’s Journal one of the best true crime books ever written.