Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen

An in-depth look at the group of teenagers who sparked a movement after the February 14th, 2018 shooting at their high school. 

DESCRIPTION:

The New York Times bestselling author of Columbine offers a deeply moving account of the extraordinary teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting who pushed back against the NRA and Congressional leaders and launched the singular grassroots March for Our Lives movement.

Emma Gonzalez called BS. David Hogg called out Adult America. The uprising had begun. Cameron Kasky immediately recruited a colorful band of theatre kids and rising activists and brought them together in his living room to map out a movement. Four days after escaping Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, two dozen extraordinary kids announced the audacious March for Our Lives. A month later, it was the fourth largest protest in American history.

Dave Cullen, who has been reporting on the epidemic of school shootings for two decades, takes us along on the students’ nine-month odyssey to the midterms and beyond. With unrivaled access to their friends and families, meetings and homes, he pulls back the curtain to reveal intimate portraits of the quirky, playful organizers that have taken the nation by storm. 

Cullen brings us onto the bus for the Road to Change tour showing us how these kids seized an opportunity. They hit the highway to organize the young activist groups mushrooming across America in their image. Rattled but undeterred, they pressed on in gun country even as adversaries armed with assault weapons tailed them across Texas and Utah trying to scare them off. 

The Parkland students are genuinely candid about their experiences. We see them cope with shattered friendships and PTSD, along with the normal day-to-day struggles of school, including AP exams and college acceptances. Yet, with the idealism of youth they are mostly bubbling with fresh ideas. As victims refusing victimhood, they continue to devise clever new tactics to stir their generation to action while building a powerhouse network to match the NRA’s. 

This spell-binding book is a testament to change and a perceptive examination of a pivotal moment in American culture. After two decades of adult hand-wringing, the MFOL kids are mapping a way out. They see a long road ahead, a generational struggle to save every kid of every color from the ravages of gun violence in America. Parkland is a story of staggering empowerment and hope, told through the wildly creative and wickedly funny voices of a group of remarkable kids.
     – Goodreads

Genre(s): Nonfiction, Crime, History, Politics

Publisher: Harper

Expected Publication Date: February.12.2019

*Thank you to the author and publisher for providing an ARC of this book via a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the book provided*

REVIEW:
So it’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts in regards to this book. From the first few pages, this book had me sobbing. And I couldn’t figure out why. Why  was this book affecting me so much? Then one day it clicked. After Sandy Hook I was disillusioned. Because if dead babies don’t thaw your cold, greedy, gun-loving heart, then nothing will. And yet here are these teens, refusing to be further victimized and changing the narrative. These kids are doing what the generations before them should have done a long time ago. They are standing up, demanding action be taken, and filling people like me with hope.

Dave Cullen spent a lot of time observing, and speaking to these young activists. His personal experiences covering these massacres over the years and following the MFOL movement from city to city, brings unparalleled insight into this incredible work of journalism.

Now, this book, isn’t like Columbine. Rather, its focus is on the survivors. Their resilience. The way they refused to let the Valentine’s Day massacre at their high school be just another one-second blip in the media. How this group of grieving and traumatized kids decided to take action. 

As a millenial adult I remember Columbine. I also remember that after that massacre, active shooter drills/lockdown drills were implemented. For my Gen Z brother, he has never known life without them. Those drills have been a part of his entire school life. Right along with earthquake and fire drills. I feel like my generation just kind of accepted it. There’s nothing we can do about it, let’s move on. But the next generation sees it differently. 

Getting an insider look at the kids behind the March for Our Lives movement, you realize how incredibly fed up they are. How frustrated they are. How tough, and incredibly intelligent they are. They realize they don’t have all the answers. THEY DON’T WANT TO TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY. But they demand some kind of action be taken to prevent another mass shooting from happening again. 

I believe these kids can get it done. Because if growing up on Harry Potter movies has taught me anything, it is that a group of teenagers can handle themselves well enough to take down their foe. Voldemort, who?
  
RATING: 5/5 stars

Recommend? Yes!! Read Columbine and Parkland back-to-back and you’ll quickly realize why this is an important, and timely book!

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie

My first Agatha Christie mystery novel and I must say, I was pleasantly entertained. 

The story is narrated by Mr. Hastings, a soldier on leave during WWI. He is invited to Styles by Mr. John Cavendish. While there, a murder occurs. Luckily, Mr. Hercule Poirot is staying in the nearby town and is asked by Hastings and Cavendish to investigate the poisoning of the family matriarch, Emily Inglethorpe. 

Very intriguing mystery. Red herrings here and there keep the reader guessing. I was completely immersed in the story. Except. Except for Hastings’ narration. The guy is insufferable. Always voicing his opinions on the case. Which surprise, surprise, are always way off base. Plus he consistently critiques Poirot’s methods. Super annoying. 

Anyway, a great introduction to the great Agatha Christie’s writing. I know I’ll be reading more of her works soon!

Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

This book begins quite literally, with a bang. The story only picks up from there. 

DESCRIPTION:

“Driven by the heart-pounding suspense of a high-stakes poker game, Bluff is a vivid, compelling novel about deceit, seduction, and delicious revenge that will keep you spellbound and cheering as you turn the last page.” -Susan Cheever, New York Times bestselling author

One-time socialite Maud Warner polishes up the rags of her once glittering existence and bluffs her way into a signature New York restaurant on a sunny October day. When she shoots Sun Sunderland, the “Pope of Finance,” as he lunches with “accountant to the stars” Burt Sklar – the man that she’s accused for years of stealing her mother’s fortune and leaving her family in ruins – she deals the first card in her high-stakes plan for revenge.

Maud has grown accustomed to being underestimated and invisible and uses it. Her fervent passion for poker has taught her that she can turn a weakness into the strength to take advantage of people who think they are taking advantage of her. It’s uncanny how she reads them.

Her intimates in New York high society believe that “Mad Maud” accidentally missed Sklar, her real target. But nothing is as it first appears as she weathers the unexpected while following her script. And while Maud is on the run, the dark secrets of men who believe their money and power place them above the law will be exposed. Betrayal, larceny, greed, sexual battery, and murder lurk beneath the surface of their glittering lives.

One unexpected twist after another follows as we watch a fierce, unapologetic Maud play the most important poker hand of her life. The stakes? To take down her enemies and get justice for their victims. Her success depends on her continuing ability to bluff. And on who will fold.

Can she win?

     – Goodreads

Genre(s): Fiction, Crime

Publisher:
Alibi

Expected Publication Date:
9.February.2019

*Thank you BookishFirst for providing an ARC in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own and based solely on the book*

REVIEW:
Maud is a poker-addicted former deb harboring a grudge against the man who stole her family’s fortune. She blames the man for her brother’s death and is eager to get her revenge.

A high-society novel that left me breathless. It is so deliciously scandalous. And written like a poker game. So many twists and turns that I truly didn’t see coming. 

The novel is told from various points of view. From Maud, who provides the pertinent background information amongst other things. To Mrs. Sunderland, who deals with the aftermath of her husband’s death. By the end of the book, you realize how well-crafted the story is. And what a remarkable poker player Maud is!

Such a quick and incredible read. Recommend to anyone looking for high-class escapism. Parts of the story just ooze wealth 😉 

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

Audiobooks: True Crime Edition

I’ve been on a bit of a true crime kick after reading Columbine by Dave Cullen. The following audiobooks deal with a different crime. They’re all informative in their own way. 

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

Sue Klebold is the mother of one of the Columbine shooters. After reading Dave Cullen’s book, I was interested in what she had to say.  

I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Sue Klebold herself. It’s always an interesting experience when a writer narrates their own work. The nuances of their words and expressions obviously come through a lot better. It’s like having a conversation with someone. 

Now with all that being said, Sue Klebold’s book is extremely heartbreaking. You feel her pain, confusion, and betrayal. It oozes out of her words. She was blindsided. Completely blindsided. And it’s something that she continues to grapple with. Trying to reconcile the image she had of her bright, loving son with the massacre he committed. 

Depression and suicide are heavily covered in the book. As something that I struggle with, I found this to be insightful and relatable. You know, one of the first questions they asked me when I was in the hospital was “are you a danger to others?”. I answered truthfully: no, I was only a danger to myself. Her son was an undiagnosed suicidal depressant. I’m not saying it’s an excuse for what he did. It absolutely is not. But I do understand his pain. Because I’ve been there. And sometimes I’m still there. 

Anyway. Back to the book. Sue Klebold loved her son. She did her best (as any good mother tries to do). She was blindsided. And now she’s trying to understand. It’s a heartbreaking, enlightening read. 

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer 

Krakauer states that he first thought of writing this book as a way to learn more about Mormons. Which is fair. The thing is, this book is less about Mormons and more about its extremists.

There’s a difference between Latter Day Saints and Fundamentalists. Something that is touched upon when going into the history of the Mormon faith. And this book focuses more on the Fundamentalists. 

It’s a fairly interesting book. It has true crime aspects as it discusses murders committed by members of a Fundamentalist sect. The perpetrators claim it was divinely ordained. At its core, this book is about American religious extremism. 

My Story by Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

Elizabeth Smart recounts her traumatic kidnapping and rape by a Mormon Fundamentalist.

Sigh. Look, her story is harrowing. But I have to be completely honest. This is one of the worst audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. And by this point I’ve listened to a lot. Yes, I feel really uncomfortable stating this.

Elizabeth Smart narrates the book herself. Within 10 minutes I knew this was going to be a difficult listen. But I stuck it out because I hoped it would get better. It didn’t. I’ve seen Elizabeth give interviews on TV over the years. She’s always calm and articulate. Not in this book. It actually didn’t sound like her. It was childish. I wonder how much of this book she actually wrote herself.

The narration aside, the writing was also terrible. “I was just a little girl“, “I was just a little girl“, “I was just a little girl“. The phrase was pounded into my head. Why the repetition? I already felt for her. And why that specific phrase? Because little girl is what I call my 3 year old goddaughter. Not a 14 year old teen. Semantics, ya’ll.

This is Elizabeth’s story. It’s disturbing and like I said, I feel for her. I really do. But this book was not great. There are a lot of other things that bothered me which I won’t go into. Because I already feel icky about kind of tearing this book apart. Do I recommend it? Nope. Watch her interviews instead.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara


An in-depth look at McNamara’s investigation into the East Area Rapist.

While listening to the audiobook, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Michelle McNamara felt familiar. Then it clicked. She was a modern day Nancy Drew! She saw an investigation that had run cold years before and she set out to solve it. An amateur detective if there ever was one. 

There was a lot of detail into how she went about searching for clues and following up on leads. How her every thought turned to the case. What avenues of thought needed to be pursued. She was obsessed with the mystery. 

It’s unfortunate that Michelle didn’t live to see the capture of the alleged Golden State Killer. How DNA turned out to be the game-changer (just as she had perceived). An interesting read, for sure.

Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom

Molly was 26 years old when she became a poker princess. Not because she was a remarkable player, but because she was a good game organizer. 

This book has been on my radar for a long time. I think I read an excerpt of it in a magazine? Anyway, that small excerpt made me see Tobey Maguire differently. This book solidified that.

Molly kind of fell into the poker world. She was new to LA and her boss basically ordered her to be a part of it. The rest is history. She knew she was walking a legal tightrope. The book actually ends with her legal troubles yet unresolved. 

Hm. It was certainly an entertaining read. So many name drops. I haven’t watched the film adaptation but I imagine you get the juicier parts of the book. Probably easier to go that route. 

A Book About a Problem Facing Society Today

I tried to narrow this down to one problem. But I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t. Our society has one too many issues. And these books do a good job of sparking a discussion.

RACE RELATIONS
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said before? This is an incredibly powerful book. My top read this year. No doubt about it. The hype is legit with this one.

Starr is an African-American teen from “the ghetto” attending a predominantly white private school. One night, her best friend is murdered by a cop right before her eyes. What ensues, is heartbreakingly real and poignant.

This book is real. Cannot stress that enough. I cried, I laughed, I was angered, I reminisced and I cried again. Look, I grew up in the hood. And I felt this novel perfectly encapsulated that part of my life.

All I know, is that if I were to fall victim to a crime today, my name and reputation would probably be dragged through the mud because I lived in the projects and may therefore have “possible gang affiliations”. Despite the fact that I live in the suburbs, graduated from a decent university and have a steady job. But in today’s America, those details get lost as soon as someone’s skin color is seen.  

My review of The Autobiography of Malcolm X


SEXUAL ASSAULT

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer


A look at the prevalent number of alleged campus rapes/sexual assaults in Missoula, Montana by college athletes. The book presents interviews with the victims and the accused and their parents, friends, etc. It is an in-depth look at certain cases, some that made headlines. 

Wow wow wow. A myriad of emotions. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Mozhan Marno and every morning I was upset. I’ve always been on the “believe the victim” side (I’ve known people who were roofied, sexually assaulted and raped). So to listen to these young women in the book go through what they did in detail. It was a lot. My blood boiled. And it scared the shit out of me. At the end of the day though, it didn’t really surprise me. That’s the heartbreaking part. That I knew justice wouldn’t be served in these cases. In one instance, it actually is. It shocked me and I cheered and cried. Why? This shouldn’t be something out of the norm. But, it is. 

The way the prosecutors and detectives went out of their way to help the accused football players makes me see red. Seriously Kirsten Pabst?! She was in charge of one of the cases but refused to file charges. She then resigned, her boss decided to file charges, so she joined the guy’s defense team! I mean, what kind of bullshit is that?! 

And the trials themselves! Good Lord! You confess to rape and still deserve a lenient sentence because you’re a good person? The fuck?! NO! Raping “your little sister” proves otherwise! “I have suffered enough and have a bright future”. Excuse me?! You’re the one that raped someone and have caused years of emotional damage. Do not play victim when YOU have committed a crime. 

Reason #37293629 why I don’t trust the justice system. I am a woman and if I were the victim of sexual assault I wouldn’t get Oliva Benson or Eliot Stabler. I’d get some asshole that would blame me for falling asleep in a friend’s house in the first place. How dare I expect people to act like decent human beings? Haha, silly me. 



SCHOOL VIOLENCE

Columbine by Dave Cullen

An in-depth look at the school shooting that rocked the United States. This book is written by one of the many journalists that initially covered the massacre. My one pet peeve: the writing format. Bounced back between something that happened pre-massacre to one of the survivors. It seemed a bit unstructured to me.

I remember life before Columbine. After? Big changes. My sister was in high school and my mom worried about her constantly. I went from having regular earthquake/fire drills in school to active shooter/lockdown drills. Although to be completely transparent, my elementary school was in a rough neighborhood and we had drive-by drills. Um, yeah. 

Look, I don’t know what the root of these incidents is. Gun control? Mental health? Bullying? I honestly, have no clue. One of the Columbine killers was a psychopath, the other was severely depressed. So again, I don’t know. I do know that whatever is driving this phenomenon has gone on too long. 

I thought after Sandy Hook some kind of change would occur. Those babies were slaughtered. Yet, nothing happened. Sending your kids to school shouldn’t be a daunting task. 

Here’s a loose list of mass shootings that have happened in the last 20 years. Full disclosure: my alma mater is on the list. (Sort of). IV ❤ 

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Prompt: a book about a problem facing society today

Challenge Update: 44/50

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Ah, yes. Good ol’ Philip Marlowe. A tough private eye solving crimes in 1930’s Los Angeles. 

Marlowe is hired by an elderly man, General Sternwood, to investigate the blackmailing of his youngest daughter, Carmen, by a shady bookseller named Arthur Geiger. The General’s daughters are wild, often finding themselves in some kind of scrape. The eldest, Vivian, has a gambling problem and a husband, Rusty Regan, that is suspected to have run away with another woman. Then there is Carmen. Out of control Carmen. When Philip Marlowe begins to look into the case, he quickly realizes that this is more than just a simple blackmailing scheme. There is more going on. As characters double cross one another, and bodies seem to turn up around him, Philip Marlowe manages to conclude his initial investigation. But there is one piece of the puzzle that still bothers him. Where is Rusty Regan?

What puzzles me about this book, is who killed the chauffeur? It wasn’t a suicide, no matter which way the cops want to spin it. But while every death is accounted for, the chauffeur’s has no clear resolution. I suspect it was Eddie. Except I can’t for the life of me fathom why he would kill Owen. Unless Joe Brody lied? Which is a big possibility. Apparently not even Raymond Chandler knew who killed him. Which is frustrating. I need answers!

This is one of those books with a female fatale, a seedy city and a man with a completely cynical worldview. There’s also a nice dose of misogyny and rampant homophobia. (Despite that, it’s still a good book). Anyway, I think the movie adaptation with Humphrey Bogart is the best one out there. It captures the mood and atmosphere that Chandler was trying to convey in his writing. And well, it’s Humphrey Bogart!

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I first read this book in high school. It was a required summer reading assignment. My task was easy.

My original notes

A typed, one page, single-spaced summary of the novel. These are all my original notes and rough draft of the assignment haha.​ Bear in mind, I was a sophomore in high school. That was at least 10 years ago. (Yikes!) 

My original rough draft (pt.1)

I wrote​ everything out by hand then. I could never sit at my computer and write. Something I still haven’t really outgrown. 

My original rough draft (pt.2)

Teenage me liked this book though. It was the grittiest book I had read up to that point. Since then, I’ve read it maybe a few times. (Look at the 10 year, wear and tear on my book). I should really move on and pick up another Philip Marlowe story.

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Prompt: A book by a local author

21/40 (*50)