Something Old, Something New: True Crime

It’s been a week or two since an installment of Something Old, Something New (SOSN) has been posted. The way this works is simple. Something Old is a book I’ve read and Something New is one I haven’t.

When I was selecting the books for my True Crime week, I came across two books that I felt would be perfect for this genre and SOSN.

With one slight caveat: my Something Old is fiction. But, my dear bookworms, it (sadly and most horrifyingly) could very well be non-fiction. So I went ahead and added it to the mix.

You can be the judge of whether you think it was an appropriate choice.

Something Old:

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a book I read several years ago and continues to remain on my top ten list of favorite books. No one had recommended this book to me, but rather I kept seeing it at my local used book shop. Every time I came across this book I would find myself thinking that it had a strange title. I can’t really explain why the title is strange to me, maybe because it seems so plain. I don’t know.

One day I finally grabbed it and stuck in my stack to buy. I didn’t read it right away either. I had never read anything by Lionel Shriver and totally assumed Lionel was a man (the only Lionel I had ever heard of has a last name of Richie), but he is actually a she. It doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things, just a little food for thought (that, and you can correctly refer to LS as a she if this book were to ever come up in conversation. You’re welcome).

More time went by. One afternoon I was looking at stack of unread books and WNTTAK just kind of slightly screamed, Read me right now. Since I don’t like being screamed at, even when it’s silent screaming (fyi: only books know how to silently scream), I said, Ok, you’ve made your point, I’ll read you right now.

This book is a million things.

You know right from the start that Kevin is in prison because he has killed seven of his high-school classmates and two others right before his sixteenth birthday.

Much of this book is in the form of letters from Kevin’s mother Eva, to her estranged husband, Franklin.

The story opens in the present but revisits the past before Kevin’s birth and begins the rest of the story from that beginning. The rest of the book goes back and forth between those two time periods.

Eva is a complicated woman. I think many may not like her, and some may even vilify her. I found her quite genuine and honest with her feelings, and if for that reason alone, I like her. Even if she isn’t/wasn’t the most maternal, she never tries to hide that fact. She questioned having children from the very beginning and in my opinion was never a hundred percent for it. But having children is one of those things you can’t compromise on, you have them or you don’t. I do feel that she loved/loves Kevin, but people show love in different ways. Sometimes the recipient of that love doesn’t or can’t feel that love and of course there are bound to be consequences. But you can’t know-no one can know how each person will ultimately turn out. There isn’t only one right way to parent well. Eva openly wonders in these letters to Franklin if her thoughts regarding having/not having children were passed on to her child while she was pregnant, this having a negative effect on him.

This book is such a perfect example of nature versus nurture. Neither can be solely to blame. There are some disturbing things that Kevin does in the course of this story, when he is really young, that to me, seems like his evilness was there from the start. But if someone is more prone to be evil or act criminally does that mean nothing can change that? What do you think?

Something New:

My Something New is A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold. Her son Dylan Klebold, along with Eric Harris were the two boys responsible for the thirteen killings and wounding twenty-four people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999 before killing themselves.

“For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?” (From back cover)

These are, unfortunately such pertinent books in today’s world. We live in a culture where school-aged children pick up weapons and take the lives of those around them in an instant.

Years and years ago, this didn’t happen in our schools, now it’s become almost a rampant epidemic. This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue and I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution.

Are the majority of morals that bad at home versus years ago? Are children not disciplined appropriately, we know they aren’t at school, because school teachers and administrator’s hands are tied, afraid they will be sued if a child is looked at the wrong way. Is it because so many children are being raised by grandparents who are tired and shouldn’t be saddled with this responsibility? Are these even the right questions to ask- I have no idea. And if these aren’t the right questions, what hope is there in finding the right answers?

My intentions are not to sound hopeless, but rather to continually ask questions in a world that is rapidly changing. How do we teach our children answers we don’t have as adults?

“In a country that doesn’t discriminate between fame and infamy, the latter presents itself as plainly more achievable.”

-Lionel Shriver, WNTTAK

“Children live in the same world we do. To kid ourselves that we can shelter them from it isn’t just naive it’s a vanity.”

-Lionel Shriver, WNTTAK

One Bad Apple

I guess it could start as a bruise. Maybe it was caused by a fall? Then it sits for awhile and you forget about it, if you even noticed it in the first place.

Maybe a bug got to it and made a little hole and then the hole got bigger.

Or maybe it was bad from the very beginning? Maybe the seed wasn’t quite right.

Whatever the reason of how it came to be this way doesn’t really matter. Really you don’t even realize anything is amiss because your mind is thinking of ten different things.

What matters is this:

When you go to take a bite, your teeth hit mush. Your whole mouth instantly revolts against the disgusting texture. The ten different things you were thinking of have disappeared from your mind. In fact, all you can think about is getting every last bit of the mush out of your mouth.

All because of one bad apple 🍎.

Maybe if you hadn’t been so busy you might’ve noticed that something looked off, that the apple didn’t look so good from the start.

But what about that apple that looks completely perfect? Maybe even the first few bites are fine. Then, even though it was there the whole time, you take a fourth bite and you realize it’s rotten to the core.

Sometimes people are like that too-rotten to the core.

Continuing with this week’s true crime is My Friend Anna – The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLouche Williams.

This book was featured on a recent non-fiction list of new books to watch out for. When I first read what it was about I instantly thought of two books both featuring ingenious con-artists. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith and Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale and Stan Redding.

Below is the Amazon synopsis:

Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams’s new friend Anna Delvey, a self-proclaimed German heiress, was worldly and ambitious. She was also generous—picking up the tab for lavish dinners at Le Coucou, infrared sauna sessions at HigherDOSE, drinks at the 11 Howard Library bar, and regular workout sessions with a celebrity personal trainer.

When Anna proposed an all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakech at the five-star La Mamounia hotel, Rachel jumped at the chance. But when Anna’s credit cards mysteriously stopped working, the dream vacation quickly took a dark turn. Anna asked Rachel to begin fronting costs—first for flights, then meals and shopping, and, finally, for their $7,500-per-night private villa. Before Rachel knew it, more than $62,000 had been charged to her credit cards. Anna swore she would reimburse Rachel the moment they returned to New York.

Back in Manhattan, the repayment never materialized, and a shocking pattern of deception emerged. Rachel learned that Anna had left a trail of deceit—and unpaid bills—wherever she’d been. Mortified, Rachel contacted the district attorney, and in a stunning turn of events, found herself helping to bring down one of the city’s most notorious con artists •

Horrible, but fascinating.

How does such a person so completely and quickly immerse themselves within the lives of others, without their motives being questioned?

It’s kind of like the apple. Maybe we see the apple out of the corner of our eye and grab it. Maybe it’s not even bit in to right away, but tossed in our bag for later. So it travels with us. Until that moment when we are ready for a break, for that apple we grabbed hours ago.

But it isn’t what it seemed. The snack is ruined. Granted, a con-artist is different and much worse than a rotten apple. However, both leave you with a horrible taste in your mouth that won’t quickly be forgotten.

So, pay attention. People and things are not always what they seem.

Did you happen to notice which apple was fake in the picture above? I’ve circled the bad apple below👇

“You can’t read all day (if you don’t start in the morning).” – Anonymous

A Feast Fit For A Bookworm

Are you all getting tired of me professing my endless love of Friday ? I hope not, because it’s out of my control. So, if you decide to stick with me and this blog, you’re stuck with my gushing about Fridays- but only on Friday.

Friday is for favorite things and posting about them. My favorite things are books, dessert, and wine. Not in any specific order of importance, but all at one time. Sort of like a miniature feast. So let’s get the feast started.

The Book

I came across How to Disappear by Akiko Busch in one of the various book review publications or emails I receive. The title in its entirety is, How to Disappear- Notes on Invisibility in a time of Transparency. It’s not a long book, coming in at exactly 200 pages.

I would be finished with it if I wasn’t putting ‘Note Pals’ on every other line. There are so many statements, ideas, and phrases that ring true to me.

The main idea of this book being many people are so concerned with image consciousness, branding themselves, and just simply putting themselves and their lives on display. Busch argues against this notion saying, “The impulse to escape notice is not about complacent isolation or senseless conformity, but about maintaining identity, propriety, autonomy, and voice. It is not about retreating from the digital world but about finding some genuine alternative to a life of perpetual display.”

Yes, yes, and yes.

Another section talks about how children today do not shy away from the camera as much, and actually primp a little in their awareness of one being present. Busch alludes this to the fact that children in today’s culture came straight from the womb being photographed and posted. Because of this, children and teenagers associate, “being unseen as negative,” says Busch.

Since I am only halfway through, below is the Amazon synopsis:

How to Disappear is a unique and exhilarating accomplishment, overturning the dangerous modern assumption that somehow fame and visibility equate to success and happiness. Busch presents a field guide to invisibility, reacquainting us with the merits of remaining inconspicuous, and finding genuine alternatives to a life of perpetual exposure. Accessing timeless truths in order to speak to our most urgent contemporary problems, she inspires us to develop a deeper appreciation for personal privacy in a vast and intrusive world •

For being such a short book it packs quite a punch and I haven’t even finished it. The copy I am reading is from the library, but since I have sticky-noted so many pages, I think I need my own copy. I recommend this book if you feel annoyed and/or overwhelmed with the constant ridiculousness of this social media-obsessed world we unfortunately live in. This book does not berate or insult, but rather provides an introspective view on the idea that, “the human species is finding a renewed interest in passing unnoticed.” So despite this attention-crazed world, there is a small, growing percentage of people who are taking a step back from it all. By taking a step back, much beauty is realized. The last paragraph of the introduction ends with a quote from ceramic artist Eva Zeisel. She was asked how you make something beautiful. Her response was, “You just have to get out of the way.”

The Dessert

Tonight’s dessert is the Low-Carb Reese’s Cup. The only thing I did different from the other times I posted was I added larger walnut pieces to the peanut butter fudge part. I didn’t measure, but rather just tossed a handful in the mixture before I froze them. Below is the link to the post that features this recipe:

https://themostconstant.com/2019/08/31/something-sweet-something-devine-something-with-pages-all-three-might-be-mine-but-id-share/

The Wine

This is a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Vally in California. I fully admit I bought it because the name, Imagery, reminded me a lot of the mostly image-obsessed world we live in. Hopefully this wine doesn’t leave the same bitter aftertaste that social media usually does. In the end, I’ll take my chances on a new bottle of wine over social media any day of the year, but that’s just me.

Hope your weekend is wonderful.

Cheers.

“& if the world comes knockin’, tell em’ I’m not home.” – E. Church

Body Like A (Mysterious) Back Road

• Thank you #RandomHouse #partner for this copy of Diagnosis by Lisa Sanders •

I really want to start this book.

And I would start this book, if I wasn’t already reading five books. Pure ridiculousness is what reading five books at one time is. I’ve posted before about how frustrated I get with myself over this multiple-book reading habit, so I won’t go on and on about it.

After a certain point in life, and it’s different for everyone, you just begin to except things about yourself a little easier. Just because I get frustrated with myself, doesn’t mean I’m going to change that quality. I’ve excepted that it’s always going to happen, time and time again. So there is no use trying to change it, plus the frustration only lasts until I immerse myself into one of my many reads. The only caveat is choosing which book to read at any given time.

Diagnosis by Lisa Sanders, M.D., sounds fascinating. The book is a compilation of the New York Times Magazine Diagnosis column. Sanders was an advisor on the TV drama, House, M.D., which was based upon mystery or tricky medical conditions.

There are fifty-three cases, divided into eight parts. After flipping through the book (not reading it, because then I would be up to six books) it looks like each story is just 2-3 pages long, so it is probably a very fast read.

Currently, Diagnosis is a Netflix Original documentary series.

There are just seven episodes right now, it will be interesting to see how they match the book.

Everyone knows the book is just about always better, but Netflix seems to do a pretty decent job on their Originals.

I am tired and ready for bed, but I’ve got miles to read before I sleep 💤

Good-night, Bookworms.

Sincerely,

tmc

“Sleep is good, he said, and books are better.” – George R.R. Martin

Everything Is For Sale On The Silk Road

Remember I mentioned that what I read doesn’t really follow any kind of rhyme or reason? If not, or if you are new to this blog, my reading more or less follows no type of *organization other than whatever I’m in the mood for at any given moment.

*Other than reading what’s next for book club or trying to read what comes in from the library ( Overdrive app ) or Netgalley.

Upon finishing my first book of July, (which I will remind you of in my month’s end recap) when I returned it to the library via Overdrive I was presented with a list of:

“You just read ___________, you might like one of these.” Since I loved the book I had finished I went through the selections and found this one. I put it on hold and received it right away. After I finished Three Women I needed to decide what to read next. I still had three other books I had brought with me on my time away, but I also had books patiently waiting on my sweet Kindle. So- I opened my Kindle and looked around a bit. Even though AK was a library book, I had other library books waiting, so why did this one stand out? Maybe it was the moon or the glass of wine I was holding or the waves crashing just outside my window? None of it makes sense and all of it makes sense. Whatever the reason may be, a few nights back I started reading American Kingpin by Nick Bilton.

Below is the synopsis from Amazon:

• In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything—drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons—free of the government’s watchful eye. 
 
It wasn’t long before the media got wind of the new Web site where anyone—not just teenagers and weed dealers but terrorists and black hat hackers—could buy and sell contraband detection-free. Spurred by a public outcry, the federal government launched an epic two-year manhunt for the site’s elusive proprietor, with no leads, no witnesses, and no clear jurisdiction. All the investigators knew was that whoever was running the site called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts. 
 
The Silk Road quickly ballooned into $1.2 billion enterprise, and Ross embraced his new role as kingpin. He enlisted a loyal crew of allies in high and low places, all as addicted to the danger and thrill of running an illegal marketplace as their customers were to the heroin they sold. Through his network he got wind of the target on his back and took drastic steps to protect himself—including ordering a hit on a former employee. As Ross made plans to disappear forever, the Feds raced against the clock to catch a man they weren’t sure even existed, searching for a needle in the haystack of the global Internet •

Go and read this book. It’s very interesting. Before reading this, I had heard of the Dark Web, but not of Silk Road. I started researching the Dark Web (ie. black market) and was fascinated and creeped out. I found an article talking about it and it listed some things that were commonly available. Items like: $500 for seven gift cards that have $2500 on them or a lifetime Netflix subscriptions for $6-7. Granted, that’s not drugs, human trafficking, or the selling of organs, but it’s definitely something (and after reading this book, you’d have to live under a rock to not realize the really bad shit is truly out there and definitely for sale on some site(s) somewhere). Obviously you are dealing with less than honest people who are dealing in these commodities, but there are still rating systems. Similar to EBay or Amazon, where a seller is rated on each transaction. So is there honor among thieves after all?

After reading this book, I looked up others by Nick Bilton. Hatching Twitter is about the origins of Twitter, and is the next one I want to read by him.

After today, there are two full days left of July. I’m hoping to squeeze in one more book!

Happy reading, Bookworms

Sincerely,

tmc

Most people go through life thinking that tomorrow they’re going to do something great. Tomorrow will be the day that they wake up and discover what they were put on this earth to do. But then tomorrow comes—and goes. As does the next day. Before long, they realize that there aren’t that many tomorrows left.

– Nick Bilton, American Kingpin

2 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back, We Come Together Because Opposites Attract

Do opposites attract?

Let me back up a sec, I’m talking books, not people. Do you seek out the same types of books to read? The same genre(s) or books on subjects you are familiar with, or do you go for the new? I don’t mean new as in what recently hit the shelves but new as in something you don’t know about or don’t typically read. I like most genres, the exceptions being:

1. YA

(Sorry- I know it’s an incredibly popular genre, but I’m not a young adult and they just feel so trite most of the time. Plus nothing out there compares to old school YA, ie. Sweet Valley High and Christopher Pike, sorry YA 2019, you just don’t hold a candle).

2. Fantasy

(Exceptions being Harry Potter and possibly Neil Gaiman. I say possibly because I’ve not officially read Gaiman. Also some Stephen King (who is an all-time fav) has fantasy aspects, but King can actually fall in to so many categories that I can’t technically label him fantasy.

3. Self-Help

Oh F. You all should hopefully know how I feel about this genre. Double puke.

So maybe you think I’m picky, but I’m not, I promise. Some stuff just sucks.

So back to opposites attracting. Something that is so wonderful about books is the fact that you can read something and learn about a world foreign to you. You can read about jobs, lives, countries, and types of people you might never otherwise come in contact with. You can read about careers and while you may marvel at them, you realize you are getting to enjoy learning about them without committing your life to them. Sort of voyeuristic, but not in the creepy way.

So. I came across Red Notice by Bill Browder on some book list. It said something about Russia and why, in today’s world you,

a. keep hearing about Russia and Russian orphans

and,

b. this book was a great source to learn more about it. If in fact you care or have an interest.

I have a some interest (not a ton, but some) in Russia so I read on about this book. I was intrigued by the end of the article that I headed to my Overdrive (library) app and did a search for it. Lo and behold Overdrive had it. I put it on hold and went about my day. Overdrive is phenomenal and life-changing if you e-read. The only downside is you can wait eons or you can get all your books at once when you don’t have the time to read them. But it’s free my sweet bookworms and that’s a pretty darn good thing, especially if the book ends up stinking. To me, the downsides Overdrive hold no weight to the upsides, so just get it and don’t complain.

Ok, here is the Amazon synopsis for Red Notice:

• Red Notice does for investing in Russia and the former Soviet Union what Liar’s Poker did for our understanding of Salomon Brothers, Wall Street, and the mortgage-backed securities business in the 1980s. Browder’s business saga meshes well with the story of corruption and murder in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, making Red Notice an early candidate for any list of the year’s best books” (Fortune).

This is a story about an accidental activist. Bill Browder started out his adult life as the Wall Street maverick whose instincts led him to Russia just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, where he made his fortune.

Along the way he exposed corruption, and when he did, he barely escaped with his life. His Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky wasn’t so lucky: he ended up in jail, where he was tortured to death. That changed Browder forever. He saw the murderous heart of the Putin regime and has spent the last half decade on a campaign to expose it. Because of that, he became Putin’s number one enemy, especially after Browder succeeded in having a law passed in the United States—The Magnitsky Act—that punishes a list of Russians implicated in the lawyer’s murder. Putin famously retaliated with a law that bans Americans from adopting Russian orphans.

A financial caper, a crime thriller, and a political crusade, Red Notice is the story of one man taking on overpowering odds to change the world, and also the story of how, without intending to, he found meaning in his life. •

Also there is a blurb on the front of the book from The New York Times,” Part John Grisham-like thriller, part business and political memoir.”

Well surprise, I received it from Overdrive two days ago. I am in the middle of receiving a ton of books from the app, but oh well. A good problem to have in the whole scheme of things. Of course I’m reading multiple books, but I cracked this one,

just to see,

And now I’m hooked. Browder has a fast-paced writing style and his story is fascinating. I think you should check it out.

In this case, opposites attract. I’m not going to ever become a capitalist or work in finance- and,

a collective sigh is heard around the world at this declaration, not that I ever could have done that job. Numbers are not my thing unless it comes to buying cheap books. Even though it’s not my thing, Browder’s story is incredible and I for one, am interested in learning more.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

– Dr. Seuss

Yelling doesn’t make me believe you, it just means you are loud

Heartland by Sarah Smarsh was gifted to me by #Scribner / @Scribnerbooks •

I hate the news, not so much from the newspaper, but more specifically, the televised news. This is not a political post-you have my word. I’m not stating where I stand politically and I couldn’t give two shits where anyone else stands. The reasoning behind my avid dislike of the televised news is that people talk and usually yell simply to hear their own annoying voice. I don’t care which channel is on, someone is being unnecessarily loud and obnoxious. With the invention of fake news it has become even worse. It’s loud and false! Seriously I think many of the popular yellers have got to be alcoholics, listening to their crap for five minutes and I need a drink, so I can’t imagine a day full of listening to themselves and others like them! Maybe they are handed a stiff one when the camera moves to a commercial? On the flip side I am grateful that we live in a country where both sides are able to speak freely, however annoying it may ultimately be.

My husband knows of my disdain and in the evening when we begin to unwind, he likes to say, “You want to watch the news?” He must really think me rolling my eyes is hot, because aside from cracking my book open (which he does not find hot) that is the only response he gets.

Perhaps my dislike for the news runs even deeper. Maybe going in to it knowing that it is non-fiction (I say that loosely) is the ultimate turn-off for me? Maybe that’s why I rarely read non-fiction books, I simply prefer my fictional worlds. Although a lot of fiction is based upon a whole lot of truth, (that is a conversation for another day) I still know going in that the author isn’t going to try and persuade me of anything, nor are they yelling at me.

That being said, I do have a non-fiction bookshelf. The collection on that shelf is small in comparison to my fiction lovelies, and this shelf rarely gets a new book added to it. When I take the time to look at some of the titles there I will admit that I think, I really do need to read these! For this post I selected a few that I gravitate towards.

1. Heartland by Sarah Smarsh. Sent to me by #Scribner. This is “a memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on earth” ( from cover ). It’s about Smarsh’s childhood in the 80s and 90s. She was born a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer and the daughter of generations of teen mothers. Smarsh grew up in a family of laborers trapped in a cycle of poverty. She was raised predominantly by her grandmother and this story is a look at class, identity, and economic crisis. This memoir has similar tones of Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance, which is a great book in its own right, but I think coming from a female perspective alone will be enough to cast a unique light on this book.

2. My FBI by Louis J. Freeh . Freeh was a former director of the FBI, serving from 1993-2001. His time working there covers the Mafia, the Clinton Investigation, and the war on terror. Anything FBI intrigues me.

3. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. The sole reason for wanting to read this book is because I read Unbroken also written by her. I look forward to reading about a subject I know next-to-nothing about simply because she wrote it.

4. A Mother’s Reckoning by Susan Klebold. If this book or her last name doesn’t ring a bell, I’ll ring it for you. Her son was one of the Columbine High School shooters. If that doesn’t ring a bell, go back to the rock you’ve been living under. I’ll admit I’ve read a bit of this book as well as others that deal with school shootings. It’s a subject that is crazy in itself that it’s even a thing in our world. As a mother I cannot begin to know what she has lived with since that day. I will not judge, I have not been in her shoes. I just want to read the words of a heartbroken mother and hope only to gain insight and wisdom from her journey.

5. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. This story follows two boys with same name, born blocks apart within a year of each other. They had similar backgrounds and childhoods, yet one was always in trouble with the police and the other became a Rhodes Scholar (summarized from back cover). To me, the name similarity is interesting, but it isn’t what draws me to this story. What draws me to this are the vastly different choices made by two similar boys living under and with similar circumstances.

6. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Of the six books in this post, this one has been on my shelf the longest. To write with complete transparency, I have some trepidation about reading this book (due to a personal loss). Didion is a master of words and this book is about grief. She loses her husband and almost loses her daughter in a matter of months in two separate events. I have been thinking about reading this book for years. Because it is a short read, coming in at just over two hundred pages, I know it’s conciseness will only make it that much more poignant of a read.

I hope these synopses didn’t bore you to tears, but if anything, they aren’t fake news and I wasn’t yelling at you.

Have a great day, Bookworms.

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

– Groucho Marx