Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review | I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street


Rating: 5 Stars

"Try to imagine a world where there isn't this unspoken consensus that black men are inherently scary, and most of these police assaults would play in the media like spontaneous attacks of madness. Instead, they're sold as battle scenes from an occupation story, where a quick trigger finger while patrolling the planet of a violent alien race is easy to understand" (page 225).

Five years ago tomorrow, Eric Garner was killed on Bay Street, on Staten Island.

Today it was announced that no indictment would be brought against the NYPD "officer" responsible for Garner's death. The Department of Justice is not bringing civil rights charges against him for something or other and at that point honestly I stopped listening to whoever was speaking on NPR at that moment.

What else will it take?

I thought surely, Garner's death, of all the senseless murders of unarmed black men plaguing our country, surely THIS family would get justice. His death was captured on video. Everyone heard him say over and over that he could not breathe. He repeated it eleven times as the "officer" (and I use that term loosely, because fuck that guy), used a choke-hold that was barred from use by the NYPD.


The medical examiner would eventually rule that Garner's death was a homicide. While we understand that this does not necessarily mean it was intentional to cause Garner's death, the "officer's" actions did indeed lead to it. His actions were intentional, his goal was to bring Garner down. And he did.

So, after hearing the news that no indictment would be forthcoming, I sat down to write this review, but I find now that I can't. Not properly anyway, because I am so heartbroken and angry for his family. I am so disgusted by the rhetoric spewing from the White House, and the wall of silence coming from the GOP.

Please read this book.

Please understand why this is a problem.

Please understand that no one thinks all officers are bad.

Please though, above all else, understand the reality of being Black in America.

Here I will leave you with Garner's final words before the choke-hold that killed him:

"Get away (garbled) for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today. Why would you...? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn't do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me (garbled) selling cigarettes. I'm minding my business, officer, I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone."

Monday, July 15, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's topic is Auto-Buy Authors. If you've been around the blog a while, you know that this will be a very short list.

1. Dan Jones 

Jones is a British historian who writes primarily about the Plantagenets and has many books on the subject. It was in his book The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England that I first met Eleanor of Aquitaine. Basically, Dan Jones named my baby. He has also done a few television shows, and a series on British castles that I love. My favorite parts of the castle series was in each episode, he would ask the expert/guide questions about the castle, and then pretend it was brand new information.

Also, we are basically BFFs.


What that really means is that I occasionally harass him on Facebook and Twitter, and he occasionally likes/responds to my Tweets and comments. And he posted the link to my review of his Templars book on his Facebook page, and I died.

In September of 2017 he did a book tour for The Templars and the closest he came was St Louis, so you can bet your ass that my mom, Eleanor, and I drove down there and back in two days. Totally worth it because not only did I get to meet him and get pictures and my books signed, but we talked about Eleanor of Aquitaine afterwards, and I died again because it was A-MAY-ZING. These are the ones I owned at the time. My two faves (Templars and Plantagenets) were very personalized because they're extra special to me - The Plantagenets because as I said earlier, that is where I first learned about Eleanor of Aquitaine. The Templars is special because I actually won a limited edition autographed galley from Head of Zeus (UK publisher), and he personalized it at the book talk/signing. I jokingly asked him if he told the publisher to choose me, in the hopes that I would not bring my crazy on down to St Louis to meet him and he laughed, but said he had nothing to do with it.

Bonus, not going to lie, he is super hot. It really is not fair when someone is suuuuper intelligent AND suuuuper hot AND suuuuuper hilarious - all accompanied by a British accent.

Who are your auto-buy authors? Leave your answer below, or a link to your post, and I will be sure to check it out.

Told you it was a short list!

Book Review | Dead Wrong: The Continuing Story of City of Lies, Corruption and Cover-Up in the Notorious B.I.G. Murder Investigation


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ignore for a moment the ridiculously long subtitle, because the book was really good.

I've not read Sullivan's previous book LAbrynth about Biggie's murder but I will be when I can find it (my library doesn't have it). There Sullivan focused on the investigation by Detective Russell Poole, who sought to do everything he could to bring Biggie's killers to justice. The higher-ups in the LAPD did everything they could to stop that investigation cold, and that is exactly what happened. Greed and corruption run rampant as we see in this book as well, which details the wrongful death suit brought by the Wallace Estate against the LAPD, and what has all happened in the years since the first book was released. It was Poole who discovered a group of LAPD officers who were working for Suge and Death Row Records. (Despite the fact that when he gets out of jail he will be in his 80s, Suge Knight remains someone I would never want to meet in a dark alley. Or a well-lit alley. Or at all.)

I was amazed by all the information here, so much of it not released to the public before - or at least as far as I can remember. It's been very obvious for quite a long time who the perpetrator of Biggie's murder is, but so much of the rest of the info was new to me. The author cares deeply about this case and his research into it is exhausting.

Despite the fact that there is more than enough evidence to prosecute this case, I fear it never will be. Given that the bullet casings recovered are extremely rare, only manufactured at a couple places here, and the same bullets were found in the home of the man who everyone believes was involved, that should be enough, no? Well, no. Because literally everyone who had or has the power to do something won't. The corruption runs deep, far deeper than I even knew, and this is not a story I am unfamiliar with.

More than anything, Voletta Wallace (Biggie's mother), Faith Evans (Biggie's widow) and Biggie's children deserve to know the truth. They deserve for that truth to come out, no matter who it brings down in the process. This cover-up has gone on for years and I really hope that the publication of this book will remind people that no one was ever punished for either of the murders, despite as I said, everyone knowing just exactly who is responsible. I know that fear is a huge part of this, because no one else wants to end up dead, but enough is enough. The wrongful death suit filed by Ms Wallace was dismissed in 2010, but it sounds like she is ready to move forward with the suit once again, as so much more evidence has come to light. It will be hard on the family no doubt, but everyone deserves justice, and Christopher Wallace, Notorious B.I.G., is no different.

The fact that two of the greatest rappers in the history of music can be murdered in front of dozens of people, and no arrests ever made despite everyone knowing who pulled the trigger in each case is thoroughly depressing but not at all surprising.

Highly recommended.

Review Bomb: Welcome to Jurassic Park

Dinosaurs are pretty much the coolest and I am forever glad this is one interest that I never grew out of. I have fond memories of burying rocks in the sandbox, then using kitchen utensils to 'dig them up'. Apparently grill brushes are not to be used in the sandbox, who knew?

2200826 ⭐⭐

The focus of this text moves beyond just the fossilized bones that we have left. It discusses in-depth the rare mummified dinosaurs found in just a few locations around the world. Should be amazingly interesting, right?

Yes, except it's not.

While it is very clear that the author is passionate about his field of study, perhaps the specific find he chose to highlight, the project as a whole, should have been completed before the book was actually published. We get tons of background and historical and technical information, but in the end we don't get to find out what was in the big body block because the CT scans were not finished by the time of publication. The ending is super anti-climactic and it seems silly to write a book about a project that's not even completed yet.

Manning went into detail about previous finds related to soft tissue, which ended up being rather helpful given that his own work was not yet complete. At the time I was reading, I thought it was out of place to discuss other finds so thoroughly, but it made sense once I had finished the book with no conclusion to his own.

Even so, this was a tedious read on more than one occasion and for all the effort it took for me to finish reading the book, it would have been nice to know what the CT scan showed. I definitely won't be buying his updated version of the text, once that scan is complete; it will definitely be one from the library again.

38743554 ⭐⭐⭐

I wish I had gobs of money to go gallivanting all over the world, stealing fossils from other countries.

Oh, wait, no I don't, because that is shady as hell and these fossils need to be in the care of scientists to study and preserve them.

I am not against the idea of amateur paleontologists - it is indeed how some of the greatest fossil finds have been discovered. But to steal them from the countries in which they were discovered, and then sell them at auction to the highest bidder, who will then hide them away in their private collection just feels all kinds of wrong to me - mostly because it is wrong. If we now acknowledge that items looted from the Middle East (especially Egypt!) up until not that long ago (and let's be honest, it is STILL happening) should be returned to the country of their origin, why should dinosaur fossils be any different. The argument is made that the fossils will be seen by more people, or be better cared-for, if placed in museums in the West, but that's not fair.

Anyway, this book is about an amateur paleontologist who developed a passion for the field at a young age. He unearthed quite the find in Mongolia, sold it at auction, and it was then displayed in Manhattan. The T. bataar was the find of a lifetime for Prokopi and I do admire the effort and energy he put into finding, securing, preparing, and displaying his finds. But the problem remains that they were not his to do so with. Prokopi is not a terribly likable figure, so I do not have much sympathy for him. I realize this has a major impact on his life, what with the jail time and all, and the strain it put on his family, but he chose to take this hugely important find, purposely mislabeled the crates to return home, and engaged in illegal activity in doing so.

I was kind of surprised by how boring the whole trial came across as. Maybe it really was that boring, as the author does a great job maintaining pacing within the rest of the text. I would have liked more from the trial, transcripts and such, all the arguments for and against, but it was all so matter-of-fact and dry. Perhaps it is because I personally am so passionate about this that I expected more. And as always, I would much rather things be accurate than sensational just for the sake of being sensational.

I have two main issues with the book. First, the book is the heavily detailed account of the history of Mongolia. This served no purpose to move the story along, and only what pertained to the collection of fossils should have been included. It felt like extra padding added to a story that did not need anything of the kind. But, given the fact that the book looks deceptively long when you hold the physical copy in your hands, I see why that information was included. Half the book is actually research. The author has tons heaps and heaps of it, and knows the story well. Even so, the "extra stuff" was distracting from an otherwise engaging text.


Overall it was a mostly interesting read, but one I would suggest getting from the library.

29955553. sx318  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A giant book crammed with giant facts about giant dinosaurs. I'm pretty sure this might actually be a text book, because there was so much info, and such tiny print, I can't imagine too many people reading this for fun, unless they're obsessed with dinosaurs. Even I struggled with it a lot, because there was just SO MUCH. Tons of photos, timelines, sidebars, anything and everything. Almost too much.

If you are inclined to pick this one up, only a physical copy will due. There is no way it will translate well to an e-reader.

5863221. sy475 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Where may I place my order for a chickenosaurus, please and thank you?

While the text meanders here and there, I am inclined to follow Horner's meanderings wherever they may lead in regards to this subject.

Dinosaurs never went extinct, and this is not a new concept. This was being presented at least as far back as Jurassic Park (Horner was a consultant on the film), where my knowledge of dinosaurs really began to form. In addition, if you are a regular reader of the blog you might recall my post from a month ago when Dr Lindsay Zanno visited The Durham and gave several lectures on tyrannosaurs and discussed this topic. Eleanor is endlessly delighted by this fact - what six year old wouldn't be? - and tells anyone and everyone that dinosaurs still exist, even if they look a little different now.

In a nutshell, Horner lays the groundwork for what would be necessary to create a dinosaur today, basically reverse-engineering one using chicken embryos. He explains how this could be done by manipulating the genetic code of a chicken (one at a time. No worries, were they to reproduce, they would only create another chicken) and unsuppressing, for lack of a better word, the dinosaur genes that still exist within the chicken's DNA. This would, in theory, produce chickens, but chickens that have teeth, front claws instead of wings, and tails.

Sadly, Horner does not believe this would happen in his lifetime, given the insane amounts of time and money such a project would take. I am only 36, so perhaps in my lifetime? I hope so, because I really want a chickenosaurus.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

What A Week!

My baby girl turned six last week.


I can't even.

We spent a fun-filled week with my mom, going to some of Eleanor's favorite places for lunch and yummy fro-yo treats, getting manis and pedis with our BFFs, taking home a brand-new bike without training wheels (that we are still working on mastering) and even getting an extra special tour of The Durham (no, I will never stop shouting about this place. If you thought they were awesome before, just wait until you hear what they did for my girl's birthday.)

Wednesday was THE DAY. Eleanor turned six, and she opened lots of little gifts from my mom and I, mainly her favorite books and Tinker Bells DVDs that she did not have (no joke, the NeverBeast makes me cry. Every. Single. Time.) We planned to go to story time at the Durham, then show my mom the Scotty exhibit because she had not seen it yet. As Eleanor was getting ready, I thought about what else might make this trip special. The Durham is the former Union Station that opened in 1931. It was converted into a museum in 1975. There is space at one end of the building that has long since been converted in offices, and there is a visible walkway on the second floor going from one side of the main hall to the other. Eleanor always sees employees walking along there and asks to go, but I have explained (more than once, she is stubborn!) that she doesn't work there (yet) so she can't go. I took a shot emailing one of the employees we have gotten to know and asked if it would be possible for Eleanor to go up there for her birthday, and that we were on our way for story time. I did not see his reply by the time we arrived, but as we walked in Mr Taylor and Ms Emma were standing at the front desk. I asked if he'd seen my email and he said yes, they were waiting for us! Eleanor was so excited she could hardly stand it, and we got to go up the back stairs and she finally got her wish, to stand on that walkway and look out across the whole main floor.

Not only that, but she got a sneaky peak at some other places not normally seen by the public - who knows, maybe Eleanor's future office will be up there one day!
Ms Dawn met us up on the walkway, and asked to take a couple photos. She then gave Eleanor a special little gift that someone had mistakenly turned in to lost and found, and said they had been waiting for someone special to pass it on to. It turns out that this small rubber duck with a graduation cap reading '2019' was one of a handful that had been placed in various locations all around the world, along with dozens and dozens of painted rocks, to commemorate a young woman named Payton who has passed away very suddenly two years yesterday, at the age of 16. Her mom had placed these, along with a note explaining their purpose, and relied on strangers to find them and continue to spread her daughter's love around the world with the hashtag #LiveLikePayton. There is both a Facebook page and an Instagram account, and Eleanor and I are so honored to have been part of this mission. We placed the duck today in a special place, said a prayer for Payton and her family, and are excited to see who might find her next.

Time and again, I was struck by how many people knew who Eleanor was before we had met them, and so many wished her a happy birthday. Another staff member, Ms Emily, also presented Eleanor with a picture she'd made, and it was signed on the back by all the camp staff members. AND ON TOP OF THAT...after story time, Ms Emma unlocked two of the special rooms that patrons are only allowed to look in, as there are original artifacts from the time periods that they belong to in the rooms that are very precious. First Eleanor got to go into the replica log cabin and Ms Emma told her some stories about the different items in the room. We went to the one-room schoolhouse replica next, where Ms Emma had written 'Happy Birthday Eleanor' on the chalk board. Here too Ms Emma explained some of the artifacts and what life would have been like going to school in that time. 

After the extra special tour/exhibit visits, we showed my mom Scotty, and enjoyed a yummy birthday lunch at the soda fountain.

All good things have to come to an end, and my mom had to head back home today. After church this morning Eleanor and I had a very calm and lazy afternoon, snuggling and watching movies. It was the perfect end to a special week filled with special people who showed once again just how much they care for Eleanor and me. We are truly blessed.

Sarah and Eleanor

Tackling the TBR Week 26: July 8- July 14, 2019

Each week I will be keeping track of books that I have read from my TBR. I have a huge backlog of books and often end up reading new books that are not even on my list, instead of trying to whittle down the list that continues to balloon up on Goodreads. Chuckles had the idea first, and we are going to use this as a chance to encourage each other to get those books read instead of always grabbing new ones and thus never making a dent in the physical and digital stacks we already have. It will also give us a chance to take a good look at our lists and see if there are ones we are no longer interested in. We will be posting on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the last day of the month.

Previous Week's TBR Total: 3,354

Books Added to TBR: 0

Books Removed from TBR: 0

Currently Reading: 6

Books Read: 0

Books DNF-ed: 0

New TBR Total: 3,354

I KNOW, RIGHT?! But, it was Eleanor's birthday week and I had slightly more important things to tend to than my insane readings habits. But now it is a new week, Eleanor has another camp this week - she will get to learn all about being a paleontologist, archaeologist, and geologist! -  so things will be back to business as usual!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Stacking the Shelves #55

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature co-hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc. Never has my addiction been more obvious than when I am now keeping track of every single book I acquire.

Library Treasures
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What did you add to your stash this week?

Happy Reading!