Review: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (BMHAWK) by Dee Brown is a detailed and honest portrayal of the United States government’s efforts to claim the Wild West and how they destroyed Indians in the process. 

For this review I will use the term "Indians" because that's what the book used, although I was personally taught in school to say "Native American" and that's what I always say in real life. Interestingly, the Smithsonian museum in DC uses "American Indian." Is that the new correct terminology?

"They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it."

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I'm reviewing BMHAWK outside of my monthly posts because this actually took me about six months to finish. I found the content enlightening, but incredibly heart breaking so it was hard for me to read more than a few pages at a time. I'd get so depressed I'd take a break for a week. The writing itself was the reason I deducted a star; it was pretty dry and redundant. Each chapter followed the same arc: Indians were promised something; white men lied; Indians either moved, tried to compromise, or fought back; then eventually they lost everything anyway. As I said - redundant. In the most depressing way possible.  

As a kid, I learned that Thanksgiving was when the Indians and white pilgrims became best friends. I sang along with Disney’s sexualized and historically inaccurate Pocahontas. I remember later reading a middle grade book about the Cherokee Trail of Tears that first introduced me to the fact that Indians were not fairly treated. The older I got (as is true with people in general) I learned more about the USA’s violent history. 

So adult me knew better, but I picked up BMHAWK because adult me didn't know many facts about what really happened. BMHAWK pretty blatantly pointed out that the white men of the 1800’s were liars, thieves, and perpetrators of an ethnic cleansing. Is it biased? Sure, if by biased you mean that this was one of the first books written (1970's) to share the victim's point of view. Brown intended to make his readers think like the victim - "looking eastward." Some have criticized his lack of sources within the text, which I understand, but the back of the book had pages of references for those curious. 

I'd have no objection to BMHAWK being required reading for Americans.  

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

QUOTES

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Below are tidbits and quotes from BMHAWK that stood out to me. I know it’s long, but I actually cut it down to about half of what I marked while reading. 

Sprinkled (lightly, because it was rare) throughout BMHAWK are the names of white men who tried to do the right thing:

1) Lieutenant Royal E. Whiteman: Attempted to warn Indians near Camp Grant of a potential attack and cared for their dead after the fact. His own military career suffered because of it. (Chapter 9)

2) Tom Jeffords, a mail carrier: Jeffords and his riders were often ambushed by Apache warriors on their routes, so he finally went to Cochise himself to see what could be done.
"After a proper interval of silence, Taglito Jeffords told Cochise he wanted a personal treaty with him so that he could earn his living carrying the mails. Cochise was baffled. He had never known such a white man. There was nothing he could do but honor Taglito's courage by promising to let him ride his mail route unmolested." They continued having a respectful relationship; all Chiricahuas trusted Jeffords. (Chapter 9)

3) William P. Clark, "White Hat": He "genuinely liked Indians, was interested in their way of life," and the Cheyennes requested he accompany them when they were being forced out. (Chapter 14)

4) Henry W. Lawton, "Tall White Man": Was assigned to the Cheyennes instead of Clark above, made sure the Indians received enough food. Also attempted to get more food for them from Washington. (Chapter 14)

And now, quotes:

Intro

"It was an incredible era [1860-1890] ...an almost reverential attitude toward the ideal of personal freedom for those who already had it."

"And if the readers of this book should ever chance to see the poverty, the hopelessness, and the squalor of a modern Indian reservation, they may find it possible to truly understand the reasons why."

Ch. 8 - The Rise and Fall of the Donehogawa

When Spotted Tail tried strawberries and ice cream in Washington, DC: "Surely the white men have many more good things to eat than they send to the Indians."

Ch. 10 - The Ordeal of Captain Jack

"Captain Jack was hanged on October 3. On the night following the execution, his body was secretly disinterred, carried off to Yreka, and embalmed. A short time later it appeared in eastern cities as a carnival attraction, admission price ten cents."

Ch. 11 - The War to Save the Buffalo

"Of the 3,700,000 buffalo destroyed from 1872 through 1874, only 150,000 of them were killed by Indians. When a group of concerned Texans asked General Sheridan if something should not be done to stop the white hunters' wholesale slaughter, he replied: 'Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance.'"

Ch. 12 - The War for the Black Hills

"'It is only six years since we came to live on this stream where we are living now,' Red Dog said, 'and nothing that has been promised us has been done.' Another chief remembered that since the Great Father (President) promised them that they would never be moved they had been moved five times. 'I think you had better put the Indians on wheels,' he said sardonically, 'and you can run them about whenever you wish.'"

"'What have we done that the white people want us to stop?' Sitting Bull asked. 'We have been running up and down this country, but they follow us from one place to another.'"

"With them went the father and mother of Crazy Horse, carrying the heart and bones of their son. At a place known only to them they buried Crazy Horse somewhere near Chankpe Opi Wakpala, the creek called Wounded Knee."

Ch. 13 - The Flight of the Nez Perces

"The whites told only one side. Told it to please themselves. Told much that is not true. Only his own best deeds, only the worst deeds of the Indians, has the white man told."
-Yellow Wolf of the Nez Perce

"Leaving the soldiers floundering in their rear, the Indians crossed Targhee Pass into Yellowstone Park on August 22. Only five years earlier the Great Council in Washington had made the Yellowstone area into the country's first national park, and in that summer of 1877 the first adventuresome American tourists were admiring its natural wonders." 

"I have asked some of the great white chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men going where they please. They cannot tell me."
-Chief Joseph

Ch. 16 - "The Utes Must Go!"

"It was Nathan Meeker's fancy to have the Utes address him as Father Meeker (in their savage state he looked upon them as children) but most of them called him "Nick," much to his displeasure." (I have so much love for the fact that they wouldn't call this ass "Father" ha!)

Ch. 17 - The Last of the Apache Chiefs

"He found plenty of evidence that white men were trying to arouse the Apaches to violent action so that they could be driven from the reservation, leaving it open for land-grabbing."

Ch. 18 - Dance of the Ghosts

"On September 8 Sitting Bull and the young Bluecoat [and translator] arrived at Bismarck for the big celebration. They rode at the head of a parade and then sat on the speakers' platform. When Sitting Bull was introduced, he arose and began delivering his speech in Sioux. The young officer listened in dismay. Sitting Bull had changed the flowery text of welcome. 'I hate all the white people,' he was saying. 'You are thieves and liars. You have taken away our land and made us outcasts.' Knowing that only the Army officer could understand what he was saying, Sitting Bull paused occasionally for applause; he bowed, smiled, and then uttered a few more insults. At last he sat down, and the bewildered interpreter took his place. The officer had only a short translation written out, a few friendly phrases, but by adding several well-worn Indian metaphors, he brought the audience to its feet with a standing ovation for Sitting Bull." (Sitting Bull was my favorite person by the end of the book. I had a lot of respect for him.)

"'The white man knows how to make everything,' he said, 'but he does not know how to distribute it.'"
-Sitting Bull to Annie Oakley when discussing how white people treat their own poor.

Book Reviews: June 2018

I read six things in June: three books and three plays! I had fun getting back into Shakespeare but the books were kinda meh. As usual, the reviews below contain some (very) mild spoilers. 

  • All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare
  • As You Like It by William Shakespeare
  • The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan


 

Shakespeare Plays

I know this sounds pretentious, but I love Shakespeare. There’s nothing like a good Shakespearean insult to make me appreciate the English language. Reading each of his plays has always been a reading goal of mine since I only read seven or eight in college. (Maybe one in high school? I don’t really remember.) So I’ve decided to go back through his work (alphabetically because that’s easiest) and read them all.

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My ratings for Shakespeare are a little different. When I rate them “3 of 5,” I’m not trying to say Shakespeare could’ve made it better. Think of it more as a ranking of my personal favorite plays by the Bard. Of the three below, As You Like It was my favorite, although Parolles from All’s Well That Ends Well was by far the best character.

All’s Well That Ends Well: 3 of 5 stars

As You Like It: 3 of 5 stars

The Comedy of Errors: 3 of 5 stars


 

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Melody, a young girl with cerebral palsy, is extremely intelligent and has begun to attend new classes at school. Using technology to speak with her family and peers, she aims to show everyone that she is more than a disability. 

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This was a book club read for me and I didn’t realize it was middle grade before I started it. As an adult reader, I saw pretty much every plot point coming a mile away. The ending did get a rise out of me though - if I was Melody's mom, I'd have reported that teacher at least eight times. What a jerk. Draper, who has a daughter with cerebral palsy, did a great job of describing Melody's physical reactions. She would often get excited and make a lot of noise; it was portrayed very realistically. 

I don't really recommend this for adults to read on their own, but for parents and teachers of kids in the target age range (4th through 8th-ish grades) this would be a great discussion starter. Use it to talk about empathy, how disabilities affect people, and the different forms that bullying can take. 

Rating: 3 of 5 stars


 

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is an Antari, a magician, serving the King and Queen in Red London. Kell acts as the ambassador between all four Londons and often smuggles artifacts to entertain himself. When he accidentally smuggles a dark object, Kell must hurry to destroy it. 

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Listen. I am always DTF (Down To Fangirl). I have a soft spot for YA Fantasy and I love when something makes me ship all the ships. I expected A Darker Shade of Magic to be good because I see this book posted everywhere, but it was SO BORING. Soooo. BORING. The entire plot is just "Kell gets an evil rock and has to take it back to the place it came from." Somehow Schwab managed to fill 400 pages with...nothing.

The concept of "four parallel dimension Londons interconnected by magic" sounded good as I read the cover, but there was exactly zero worldbuilding done beyond that. There were super fancy magicians called Antari, people who wanted to be magicians, and people who had no idea magicians existed. And at no point did I ever get a solid grasp of how magic worked for any of these people. Somehow elements and blood were involved? (If you compare this to the amazing Brandon Sanderson, just know I want to punch you in the face.)

Kell was boring (how many times have I used that word?) but Lila's character irritated me the most. Look at our heroine! So tough! She's independent and feisty! She sometimes uses a knife! *gags* How many times do we have to see this same female character in YA Fantasy? I was intrigued by that other Antari for a few pages, but then he turned boring too and now I can't even remember his name.

One-dimensional characters, nothing to define the Londons beyond "evil" or "red" or "no magic," and average writing all mean I cannot recommend this to anyone. The most interesting aspect is Kell's coat.

I rounded this up to 2 stars because the cover is pretty. *shrugs* Come at me, teenage fangirls.

Rating: 1.5 of 5 stars (2 on Goodreads)


 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Rachel's boyfriend, Nick, has invited her to Singapore for the summer to go to a wedding and meet his family. When Rachel arrives, she is shocked to find out her boyfriend is part of the Singaporean 1% and is crazy, filthy rich.

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I wanted to read this one because Constance Wu will be playing Rachel in the movie. I love Wu; she's pretty much the main reason I would go see the movie. (Plus an all Asian cast, yay!) So I figured I'd read this one as some light chick lit and fun escapism about rich people. Makes sense, right? But reading this reminded me of why I generally avoid chick lit and contemporary romance.

I might have enjoyed this more if Nick wasn't such a total ass and the writing was better. The first three hundred and fifty pages were basically just descriptions of rich people things. Food, houses, clothes, airplanes, cars, blah blah blah. You can't hide lack of a plot or characterization behind a fancy stuffed tiger in the corner. Obviously I expected some of this, but it came to the point of me skimming paragraphs because I was tired of words like "lush." The last fifty or so pages finally had some action, but by then it just felt rushed.

Back to Nick being an ass. He was also an idiot. "This isn't a palace. It's just a big house." Then the first time poor Rachel ever met the owner of that palace, his grandmother, he left her alone. Right after he started getting lectured about becoming too Westernized, he got uncomfortable and left her there!!!! To "meet the family" alone!!!! He gave her ZERO warning about his family and failed to recognize when everyone was treating her like shit. Astrid and Oliver were nice to her at least, and they were my favorite characters by far. Nick's mother was the type of mother-in-law that sends couples into therapy. Run away, Rachel! (Their romantic dialogue was super cliche, too.)

Final rant point - it is unbelievable that the Young family lived in secret. How exactly could a girl recognize Nick in New York and start a rumor about Rachel that got all the way back to Nick’s mother in Singapore, while the other fairly rich families in Singapore who constantly gossip had never heard of this huge, extended family right down the road???!!?!?!? It's just not possible. 

To be fair, I did enjoy the cultural tidbits about life in Singapore and it was entertaining enough that I got through it quickly. I'll probably still go see the movie, the trailers make it look like the fun escapism I was looking for when I picked up the book.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars (3 on Goodreads)

Book Reviews: May 2018

I only read two books in May, but I’m fine with it because Outlander was a long one. I was on vacation at the end of the month, and even though I always tell myself I’ll read a ton on vacation, I never do. *shrugs*

  • A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Warning: both reviews contain vague spoilers.

 

 

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

After the war for Prythian, Feyre and the rest of her Night Court focus on rebuilding their city and relationships. Winter Solstice is nearing, and Feyre has to learn how to lead the event as High Lady.

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A lot of SJM fans seemed to be really disappointed by this, but I had zero expectations so I neither loved or hated it. I do agree with the general consensus that nothing really happens. All the main points could have easily been condensed into a few chapters at the beginning of the next book. To be honest, I was more interested in the sneak peek in the back of the novella than the actual novella.

One thing I did appreciate was Elain standing up for herself regarding Lucien. I’ve loved Lucien since the first book, but I hate hate hate how SJM pairs every single character up, and Elain essentially saying “Why am I obligated to be with him just because he says we’re mates?” was empowering for her.

Rhysand and Feyre kinda sucked in ACOFAS. This is SJM’s big problem as a writer - she’s so great at building up the tension and making you desperate to see characters get together, but once they’re actually a couple she drops the ball. They become bland and don’t grow closer, but instead stay eternally in this “we are soulmates and madly in love” immature phase. (I’m not hating on Rhysand himself though, ACOMAF is SJM’s best book.)

Overall it was nice to be back with the Night Court for a couple hours, and I liked the descriptions of Winter Solstice. If you plan to continue with SJM’s books in this world, I’d recommend reading this just to remain caught up but don’t expect too much out of it.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars


 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank when she is whisked back through the past - to the year 1743 in Scotland. Claire finds herself falling for Jamie Fraser even as she tries to find her way back home.

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Outlander is the first in a series of eight books by the same name. According to Goodreads, they range from 750 to 1,400 pages, and the first one is 850. Plus there’s a TV show, novellas, and a spinoff book series - basically, a lot of Outlander stuff. And I liked the first book fine, but I won’t be reading the rest of them. There are way too many books I need to read first before I can justify about 8,000 more pages on Claire. I have been watching the show, though, and it does a good job of portraying the story so I’ll probably keep watching it. (Plus, pretty scenery.)

First things first - there was a lot of rape discussion in this book. Lots of near rapes, actual rapes, rape as a plot device. I don’t blame Gabaldon for including it, because it was realistic for the time period. But too often the plot moved because someone was raped. By the time I got to the ending I was over it and the rape scene at the end was over the top. It was truly horrible to read but also kinda felt like Gabaldon was just going for shock value.

For the first third or so of the book, I was all about Jamie. I enjoyed his friendship with Claire and the gradual buildup of their sexual tension. But then, that one scene involving punishment happened and I couldn’t look at their relationship the same way. Not necessarily because of Jamie; I think his character acted accurately from a historical perspective. Claire’s reaction bothered me. Maybe she’s not from 2018 and the #metoo movement, but she was still 200 years ahead of Jaime. She justified his actions in the same way abuse victims do. For someone as independent as Claire was, it seemed forced for the sake of the romance. 

Parts of the book were rewarding. Claire's relationship with Geillis, the descriptions of Scottish Highlander life, and the time travel/mystical elements all kept me reading. (And most of the Jaime moments were great.) Historical fiction is one of my favorites and Outlander delivered there, so if the premise intrigues you and length doesn't scare you then check it out. 

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Reviews: April 2018

Four books in April! I managed to keep my reviews shorter, minus Hillbilly Elegy. I got a little rant-y on that one.

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  • American Kingpin by Nick Bilton

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiographical coming-of-age story. As a child, Angelou lived with her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, except for when she was with her mother in St. Louis or San Francisco.

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Before reading this I had only heard a few of Angelou's poems here and there, so I didn't know much about her life or writing style. As soon as I started reading, though, I realized it was going to be a good one. Usually when I love a book I can go on and on about it, but every now and then I read one that's just so perfect I feel inadequate to add anything else to what's already been said. This book is one of the latter.

One thing that struck me was the way she depicted her rape. Yes, it was graphic and horrifying to read, but more than that, Angelou did an excellent job of showing the confusion she felt as a child. She was lonely, unsure what was happening to her, and afraid to be honest. It was heartbreaking, and I just wanted to hug her.

There were dark moments but plenty of humorous ones, too, all made more powerful by Angelou's skill as a poet. But enough trying to do justice to this, just read it!

A few lines I liked:

“She said that I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.”

“The air was weighted and thick. A bigger house had been set on our roof and was imperceptibly pushing us into the ground.”

“The trip to the kitchen and back could not have taken more than two minutes, yet in that time I tramped through swampy cemeteries, climbed over dusty gravestones and eluded litters of night-black cats.”

Rating: 5 of 5 stars


 

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

Hillbilly Elegy, an honest appraisal of author JD Vance’s family history, touches on tough subjects such as drug abuse, absentee parents, and "making it" when the odds seemed stacked against you. 

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I have very mixed feelings on this book, so this is going to be a long rant. I was expecting more social commentary, less memoir. While I absolutely see grains of truth in some of what Vance said, I’ve managed to boil down my discomfort with this book to three points:

  1. Hillbilly Elegy has been heralded for a couple years now as a way to understand Trump supporters. Nope. Wrong. This is just one guy talking about his very messed up family. I don’t think the marketing was necessarily Vance’s fault, but it’s misleading and the only reason people are talking about it is because this guy “made it” and went to Yale law after serving as a Marine. (To be clear, I do respect him for all he accomplished.) Just be aware that Trump is not even mentioned in this.
  2. Hillbilly Elegy does not speak for all of America's white working class, both in political opinions and in life experience. Not all white people in the South are drug addicts. 
  3. Vance pretends racism isn’t really an issue.

I’m not going to get into politics much, but just to be transparent - there is nothing I like or respect about Trump. But again, this book doesn't mention him, so the rest of my review won't either. 

Vance spent the majority of this book giving the reader his family history, and he didn't hesitate to get right into the dirty details. One old story was about a family feud in which a relative of his killed someone else and got away with it. The story made it into the New York Times, so guess what? “When I first read this gruesome story in one of the country’s most circulated newspapers, I felt one emotion above the rest: pride.” Um, WHAT? Vance was PROUD that his family made it into a paper for murder?

Another thing that completely baffled me was how Vance repeatedly excused his family’s terrible behavior. (Mamaw in particular.) The best example was a story Vance told about Mamaw, Papaw, and their oldest son, Vance’s Uncle Jimmy. Once at a store, the clerk asked young Uncle Jimmy not to play with a toy - a reasonable request, since the item was for sale and Uncle Jimmy was a young child all alone. Store employees are not babysitters. When Mamaw and Papaw finally showed up and learned that their kid wasn’t allowed to play with the merchandise, what did Papaw do? He smashed the toy. They both started throwing items around the store. Papaw threatened the employee: “If you say another word to my son, I will break your fucking neck.” Then, because this was the 70’s or something, he walked out with zero consequences. THESE PEOPLE WERE THE SANE ONES IN VANCE’S LIFE! Vance later said, “Normal middle-class parents don’t wreck pharmacies because a store clerk is mildly rude to their child…. That’s what Scots-Irish Appalachians do when people mess with your kid.”

Listen. I AM (partially) Scots-Irish Appalachian and I have never had an urge to do such a thing and I don’t have a single family member who would do this. Can I think of a handful of people from my hometown who act this way? Yes. Trashy people are everywhere. But the vast majority of people from my hometown, high school, childhood church, etc. would be embarrassed beyond belief to throw such a hissy fit as an adult.

Mamaw had other issues. Once, Vance mentioned that she was a hoarder. Another time, after telling her husband not to come home drunk or she’d kill him, this happened: “Mamaw, never one to tell a lie, calmly retrieved a gasoline canister from the garage, poured it all over her husband, lit a match, and dropped it to his chest.” And apparently this was how Mamaw communicated: “Stop being a lazy piece of shit.” “You have shit for brains.” “You’re too stupid for the Marines/You’re too smart for the Marines.” Again - she's the sane, reliable adult in the family. 

Vance also had plenty of issues with his mother, who was a drug addict and had a constantly rotating line of men in her house. In some chapters Vance would say all the men weren’t that bad, then he’d say “I wanted these goddamned strangers to stay the fuck out.” Sadly, it came across like he still had issues with it even as an adult. I feel for him there. I’m sure that was hard to live with and Mamaw, definitely to her credit, always had her door open ready to give him a place to stay.

Overall, Vance was very honest about his family’s issues. I respect that. I’m sure it was difficult to write all of this down, and the problems he brought up are very real issues in society (particularly the drug abuse). That being said, he clearly avoided certain subjects, such as racism. He tried to gloss over the racism against Obama by saying the people in his area thought that Obama was too good. As in, his redneck, hillbilly, white family thought that Obama was too good a father, too educated, his suits were too nice, etc. And for that reason, they didn’t like “his wife” telling the hillbillies how to eat healthier. (It irritated me so much that Vance did not say Michelle, or First Lady, but “his wife” instead.) Sure, I can believe that some people were intimidated by Obama’s success. But Vance refused to complete the thought. These hillbillies were intimidated by this success...in a black man. I have heard, with my own two ears, a white man admit, “I hate Obama because he’s black."

For the record, I am not related to this person and yes, I did get furious and say something back to him. It was long ago and I was so mad I actually couldn’t see anything for a second and I don’t remember what I said. I haven’t seen that person in years but VANCE, DO NOT FUCKING TELL ME THAT RACISM ISN’T A PROBLEM. You are lying to yourself. He even admitted he had a cousin whose family stopped talking to her when she had a half-black child.

Okay, enough ranting. One final quote:

“I took a Yale friend to Cracker Barrel. In my youth, it was the height of fine dining-my grandma’s and my’s favorite restaurant. [To my] Yale friend’s, it was a greasy public health crisis.”

I’ve got Vance’s back on this one. Cracker Barrel is the bomb. I could eat those biscuits all day.

I truly hope this book was therapeutic for Vance to write, but I don't think it needs to be held up as some great social commentary when in reality, it barely skims the surface. Read simply for another human's life story. 

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

 

 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

College professor Jason Dessen is happy with his life. He loves his job, wife, and son. One night, he's kidnapped and knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, he realizes that everyone around him knows him as Jason - but nothing about this world is the same as his own. 

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Dark Matter was more "thriller" and less "science fiction." To be fair to all the detailed sci-fi out there, the science itself was pretty mediocre. After a few vague, Physics-101-type explanations, the book became strictly focused on Jason's attempt to restore his life. For that reason (and because of the constant paragraph breaks, yikes) this wasn't a five star book. 

This would be great for an afternoon beach read, though. For a whole day after I read it, I was thinking things like - What would have happened if I'd gone to a different college? What if I didn't take the class where I met my husband? What if I moved somewhere other than DC? I have no hesitation in recommending Dark Matter as something easy and fun.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars (4 on Goodreads)

 

 

American Kingpin by Nick Bilton

American Kingpin is the real life story of Ross Ulbricht, a programmer who started the Silk Road - an anonymous online forum where users could purchase drugs, weapons, and even human body parts. 

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American Kingpin was for my book club, so this probably wasn’t one I would have ever picked up on my own. I had a vague notion that the Silk Road had something to do with drugs and the internet, but honestly that was as far as my knowledge went. The details about the case were really interesting; I specifically liked the parts about each Federal office’s investigation and how they were really able to build a case against Ulbricht when they all worked together.

The reason I only rated this three stars was because of the writing style. There were just so many useless details, like the weather when Ulbricht went camping various times with friends. Or constantly repeating over and over that Ulbricht was a libertarian. And melodramatic warnings that “Little did he know, [this dramatic event] would soon happen and change his life!!!!!” It jumped back and forth from non-fiction into an attempted narrative style too often for me to really get invested.

Again, the case itself was interesting. There are plenty of podcasts and documentaries out there on Ulbricht and the Silk Road, though, so if you’re really interested in this case one of those might work for you just as much as this book.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars