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text 2018-07-01 10:00
July 2018 TBR
No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller - Harry Markopolos
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption - Bryan Stevenson
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States - Sarah Vowell
Negroland: A Memoir - Margo Jefferson
The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas - Anand Giridharadas
Lethal Warriors: When the New Band of Brothers Came Home - David Philipps
Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killers Revealed - Robert Graysmith
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI - David Grann
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens - Eddie Izzard
Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press - James McGrath Morris

I am just binging on non-fiction, as it grabbing me so much more than fiction. I went a little OTT at the library and pulled a bunch of books. I have two read-a-thons I am doing towards the latter half of the month.

 

 

1. No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos

         My current read is how Markopolos discovered the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and was the whistleblower that brought Madoff down. He is not kind AT ALL to the SEC. 

 

2. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

           I want to learn more about criminal justice reform, so I am starting here.

 

3. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

              For the July 4th holiday, I am trying Vowell for the first time.

 

4. Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson

               Heard nothing but good things about this book.

 

5. The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas

              True Crime that doesn't involve Wall Street.

 

6. Lethal Warriors: When the New Band of Brothers Came Home, Uncovering the Tragic Reality of PTSD by David Philipps

                This is a really long title.

 

7. Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer Revealed by Robert Graysmith

                 True Crime.

 

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

                      True Crime plus history.

 

9. Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard

                      Not a true crime book, lol. Manicure on the cover is beautifully done.

 

10. Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press by James McGrath Morris

                    Also not a true crime book. I wish she was more of a household name today as she was when she was working. 

 

 

 

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review 2018-06-23 15:55
Is Death owned by Big Business?
The American Way of Death Revisited - Jessica Mitford

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford blew my freaking mind. There's no other way to say it. I took 4 pages of notes after finishing it and then bought my own copy so that I could reference back to it. As you might have guessed from the title this is another book about death culture and funeral practices in the United States. (Here are 3 more on the topic: Caitlin Doughty 1 & 2 and Bess Lovejoy.) Mitford gives a comprehensive look at the funeral industry in America up to the last update of her book in 1997. (A small portion of the book compares the US outlook on death with the UK and there is a stark difference.) She does not shy away from making her points about the injustices committed by those working in the funeral industry. She discusses the methods employed by everyone from funeral home directors to gravestone manufacturers. This book was a definite eyeopener in terms of what is actually legal when it comes to the handling of the dead. (Spoiler alert: pretty much everything.) 

Alas, poor Yorick! How surprised he would be to see how his counterpart of today is whisked off to a funeral parlor and is in short order sprayed, sliced, pierced, pickled, trussed, trimmed, creamed, waxed, painted, rouged, and neatly dressed - transformed from common corpse into a Beautiful Memory Picture. This process is known in the trade as embalming and restorative art, and is so universally employed in the United States and Canada that for years the funeral director did it routinely, without consulting corpse or kin. He regards as eccentric those few who are hardy enough to suggest that it might be dispensed with yet no law requires embalming, no religious doctrine commends it, nor is it dictated by considerations of health, sanitation, or even of personal daintiness. In no part of the world but in North America is it widely used. The purpose of embalming is to make the corpse presentable for viewing in a suitably costly container; and here too the funeral director routinely, without first consulting the family, prepares the body for public display. - pg 43

I include this lengthy quote (and another in a moment) to illustrate the importance of being educated about what your rights are both as the deceased and as the loved one making the arrangements after death. Mitford includes accounts of deliberate fraud by members of the funeral industry against the grieving. (Many funeral homes even include in their pricing grief counseling!) The frauds range from offering 'package deals' with no options for opting out, non-disclosed fees prior to invoicing, refusal to provide itemized statements for services, or inflation on pre-need arrangements (example: plots purchased well before death). I think this is a book that every single person should read because it discusses in depth a topic which is considered taboo in our country but until it is talked about openly and frankly as Mitford does the funeral industry under its many guises will continue to take advantage of the average consumer. Know your rights, people! 10/10

 

And speaking of rights I'd like to leave you with this bit of advice from the last chapter of Mitford's book:

Send a friend to two or more mortuaries to obtain their general price lists and casket prices. Ask for the cost of direct cremation, including transportation costs and crematory fees. Likewise, for the cost of immediate burial. Pay no money in advance. If death has not yet occurred and you wish to pay in installments, do so by setting up a Totten Trust, naming yourself or a relative or close friend as beneficiary. Remember, above all, that many funeral homes have a "no-walk" policy, which means simply that if and when you start to walk out, the fee will come down, down, down until a level acceptable to you is reached. - pg 274

 

 

What's Up Next: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Condoleezza Rice: A memoir of my extraordinary, ordinary family and me by Condoleezza Rice

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-06-20 16:49
Thirteen
Thirteen - Steve Cavanagh

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Hmm… The premise sounded interesting, for sure (the killer’s not on trial, but in the jury!). However, the execution made it a little too far-fetched to my liking.

I didn’t know the ‘Eddie Flynn’ series before—this is actually the fourth book, although it’s not a problem: it reads as a standalone, and whatever background you need to know about Eddie (ex-con artist, estranged family…) is mentioned soon enough for a reader not to be confused at some missing backstory. I also quite liked the character himself, who in spite (or perhaps because of?) his past displays a strong moral fiber, and doesn’t abandon his clients even when everything conspires against them. Maybe he had a slight tendency to boast sometimes, but nothing too bad.

On the other hand, many of the other characters were really one-dimensional, almost caricatures: the famous lawyer who pulls out as soon as the deal’s not so juicy anymore, the prosecutor who’s only interested in fame and winning all his trials, corrupt cops… I was hoping that things would go differently with the jury consultant, since Eddie and him didn’t like each other, but acknowledged their respective skills and made efforts to work together; alas, this didn’t come to pass.

Most of all, I had trouble with the killer’s part of the story. He was too much of a villain with everything going for him: special abilities, smart, always prepared, always one step ahead, with contacts on the inside, able to bug the lawyer’s office, etc. There were no flaws in sight, nothing I could really use to build hypotheses as to what would be his downfall… And yet, paradoxically, even with all those aces in his sleeves, Flynn was still able to guess he was on the jury. I think this would’ve gone down better for me if it had been Kane’s first time only; his plot is quite complex, and interesting. But as a repeat plot, it didn’t work for me—his successes vs. what happens in the novel don’t add up.

Writing: The book was a fast read, not difficult to follow at all even if you don’t know much to US law procedures. The writing style was OK in places, annoying in others (too many short sentences will kill the rhythm just as much as too many long ones). There were typos, too, but I don't know if I got technically an ARC, or the final copy; if they're in the final copy, it's not good.

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review 2018-06-19 03:54
Merry Christmas!: Celebrating America's Greatest Holiday - Karal Ann Marling

Thoroughly engaging account of how the religious holiday was secularized. If you want to know the origins of the way Americans gift-wrap, decorate trees, etc. for the holiday, this is your book.

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review 2018-06-17 06:37
A WHITE HOUSE DINNER FOR THE AGES
Dinner in Camelot: The Night America's Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House - Joseph A. Esposito

Prior to reading "DINNER IN CAMELOT: The Night America's Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House", the most I knew of this most unique dinner which took place on the evening of Sunday, April 29, 1962 was from a now famous statement President Kennedy made there. It is as follows: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." One of my high school U.S. history teachers first made me aware of that quote, which left a deep impression that hasn't left me after almost 40 years. 

Joseph A. Esposito has taken considerable care in reconstructing for the reader what that White House dinner was like - down to the various personalities (e.g. Linus & Ava Helen Pauling; Dr. Ralph Bunche, the first African American recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the UN in negotiating the 1949 armistice between Israel and the Arab States; J. Robert Oppenheimer - the father of the atomic bomb - for whom this dinner marked the beginning of his political rehabilitation after having had his security clearance stripped away from him in 1954; the poet Robert Frost; the widow of Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway; the literary personages Mr. and Mrs. Lionel & Diana Trilling; Pearl Buck; William & Rose Styron - who later became close friends of the Kennedys; the writer and social critic James Baldwin; and the astronaut John Glenn) in attendance. 

The book also has the complete seating plan for the dinner, which took place in the State Dining Room (where President Kennedy presided at the lead table, # 7) and the Blue Room (where the First Lady, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, sat at the lead table, # 17) - in addition to several photographs that were taken at the dinner itself. They help to recapture, in a large sense, an America that was sure of itself and its place in the world despite the perils and challenges of the time, and the essence of a President and First Lady who encouraged a flowering of the arts and sciences among all Americans - as well as inspiring people to be and do better for themselves and humanity. 

I absolutely enjoyed reading "DINNER IN CAMELOT" which I think will serve in years to come as the main source for anyone wanting to know more about this unique and seminal event in 20th century U.S. history. It may also remind the reader that it is possible for the U.S. to extricate itself from the polarization and toxic national politics that bedevils us in the present time. For we live in a nation that has had many ups and downs since its inception in 1789 - and managed to, at various times, to embrace "the better angels" of its spirit and character.

 

Let "DINNER IN CAMELOT" remind the reader that We the People can work together anew to make a better nation for ourselves and future generations through encouraging a renewed appreciation for the arts and sciences.

 

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