{Book} Columbine


Columbine by Dave Cullen

EXPANDED WITH A NEW EPILOGUE “The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . ” So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of “spectacle murders.” It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year. What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Read This Book?
Columbine was probably the most recommended book I saw during this year’s Nonfiction November. I was in the market for true crime, though not necessarily this flavor of crime. Regardless, I saw the opportunity to check it out from the library and took it.

What Did I Think?
The Columbine High School shootings happened at a time when I had stopped watching TV for the most part (I had no cable and OTA in Lincoln, NE was sketchy) and I hadn’t become a regular consumer of online news—there was relatively little of anything to be had online in 1999. I knew the shootings had happened and that they were at the time the most fatal such incident, but honestly after it had left the immediate news cycle, I never followed up. I knew what happened right?

Well, honestly, even in the moment I was skeptical of some of the media’s conclusions. Music and video games weren’t the cause. The rest seemed plausible enough, though, didn’t it? Two outcasts had had enough and plotted their revenge.  But that wasn’t what happened. That was a narrative the media latched on to based on not-very-good early information. It was easy and it made sense in the moment. Law enforcement didn’t do much to counter that narrative. They had their own problems. Alas, the story is more complex and nuanced, as reality often is.

I am rather awed by the amount of compassion that Dave Cullen has in his writing for everyone, including the shooters and their families. There are many things that are still unknown and will never be known, but Cullen doesn’t luridly speculate. It would be easy to do so.

I’ve been thinking about why anyone should read a book like Columbine. Perhaps, yes, knowing the minds of these killers might be valuable, even to the general populous. The stories of the victims’ families and the triumphs of the injured are by turns tragic and inspiring. More broadly though, I hope that Columbine serves as a reminder that, as uncomfortable as it might be, nothing is ever as simple as one might think. That is a valuable thing to keep in mind.

Original Publishing info: Grand Central Publishing, 2009
My Copy: Overdrive, Tempe Public Library
Genre: nonfiction, true crime

Sunday Salon, 12/1/19

Sunday Salon
Whew, November. The past two week have felt like some alternate universe of rain and no ultimate frisbee playing. I generally love the rain, especially here in overly sunny Arizona, but not when it floods the fields I rely on for exercise. So, things have been a bit disjointed around here. And then a four day weekend which has pretty much contained three Saturdays! I’m looking forward to Monday…


I had Nonfiction November plans which seemed to evaporate as soon as I made them. I ended up splitting the month between fiction and nonfiction. In November, I finished:

  • Ghostbuster’s Daughter by Violet Ramis Stiel
  • Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – a reread
  • Columbine by Dave Cullen – I plan on posting about it later in the week.

One of the more interesting short stories I read in November was Poe’s “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.” As I’m going through my books of his complete works, I’m finding a lot of Poe stories that I’m not familiar with. “Ragged Mountain” combines one of his travelogue-style stories with a themes of mesmerism. I hadn’t realized Poe had written more on mesmerism than “Mesmeric Revelation” and “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” “Ragged Mountain” preceded both into publication.

Of course, I have a TBR for December!

Well Met (Well Met, #1) War for the Oaks Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within


We don’t go to the movies much, but I’m looking forward to seeing Knives Out in the near future. I’ve pretty much been a fan of director Rian Johnson since Brick (2005). I’m glad to see him back from Star Wars land.

Did I watch the three (four?) movies I ear-marked for November? I did not. But that won’t stop me from having a list for December:

  • Creed (2015)
  • Birdman (2014)
  • American Heist (2014)
  • The Beguiled (2017)

I also have The Alienist and season two of American Gods in the queue.


R. E. M.’s Monster was a pretty big deal for me in college. The band just released a 25th anniversary edition remix. That kind of makes me feel old, but it’s definitely feeding into my college days nostalgia.

Other Stuff

I’d say I had fun with my project “fling” during NaNoWriMo, but honestly reading and writing about a 100 year old murder was rough going. I’ll come back to the project, I’m sure, but for now I’m going back to  pure fiction. I’ll be working on Wicked Witch Retired for the foreseeable future.

Fall ultimate league finished a couple of weeks back. My team lost our first game. The second meant very little so we played mostly fun, beer-soaked points. Below it a picture from that game of me catching a hammer throw (an up-side down throw). It was a good throw and an easy catch.

Katherine catching hammer throw.
Photo by Quan Nguyen

And then I didn’t even go running for two weeks (see above about rain) which meant playing today at a friend’s birthday game pretty hard.

The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

{Book Quote} The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn

On a whim, slowly I reread The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, a chapter a day as a part of my morning routine. Every time I read it, something new pops out at me. This time it was this quote by the talking skull:

“You can strike your own time, and start the count anywhere. When you understand that—then any time will be the right time for you.”

As someone who is overly fond of New Year’s Day, the first of the month, Mondays, and blank pages, I would do well to learn this myself.

(The quote isn’t in the movie, but can I post about the talking skull without including a clip? No. Here he is voiced by René Auberjonois.)

Nonfiction November 2019 ~ Week 5

Week 5: (Nov. 25 to 30) – New to My TBR

Hosted by Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction:

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Oh, man. In week three, I asked for recommendations for true crime & books about true crime and you all OBLIGED. Mostly, I added recs to my TBR that sounded appropriate and were available at one library or another. I’m sure I’ll be returning to that comment section in the future though.

So, lets start off with our host this week, Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction? who suggested Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe (which I immediate put in a hold request for) and The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson.

Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession The Trial of Lizzie Borden Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World's Most Savage Murderers

Since it was immediately available, I checked out Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers by Scott Bonn suggested by hmsgofita. Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out recommended The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr and If I Tell You . . . I’ll Have to Kill You by Michael Robotham, among a bunch of other books with lots of focus on forensics and writing crime fiction.

The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science If I Tell You... I'll Have to Kill You Columbine

Julie @ JulzReads pointed me to her whole expert page from 2016. This sparked off my noticing Columbine by Dave Cullen all over the place (The Lowery Library and Never Enough Novels that I bookmarked, probably others too). I checked it out and am about 50% finished reading it. It’s heavy stuff.

Therefore, I needed some other reading too. Plucked from the Stacks posted about Broadway flops. I am fascinated by behind-the-scenes stories of movies and theater. There are so many people and so many things can go wrong! So, Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History by Glen Berger and Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum are definitely going to be reprieve reading.

Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops

So many good books! It’s been another great Nonfiction November.

{Books} Ghostbuster’s Daughter & Pumpkinheads

Shockingly, I announced a TBR near the beginning of the month and haven’t read anything from it. I should possibly always find/replace “books to-be-read” with “book-I’m-not-going-to-read-yet.”

Ghostbuster's Daughter cover Ghostbuster’s Daughter: Life with My Dad, Harold Ramis by Violet Ramis Stiel

At the beginning of the month, I jumped into reading some heavy stuff about axe-murderers and hysterical news papers for NaNoWriMo. I intended to read The Beautiful Cigar Girl for NonFicNov, but it was too much of the same thing.

Instead, I checked my elibrary “wishlist” and chose something different: Ghostbuster’s Daughter. Not only is Harold Ramis my favorite Ghostbuster, but he wrote and directed several of my favorite movies. I was looking forward to some nice movie trivia bits. This books has some of that, but it’s mostly about Violet Ramis Stiel. And her life is… somewhat interesting? It’s definitely a look at a person who has been a very privileged and only sometimes aware of that.

Pumpkinheads cover Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell (author), Faith Erin Hicks (illustrator)

I put this on hold at the library on October 7th and just got it this week. I had really hoped to read it before Halloween, but que sera, sera.

Pumpkinheads was pretty much exactly what I expected: autumn-in-Nebraska setting, fluffy romance, and some honest-to-goodness funny bits. I also really appreciated that Deja’s secondary mission for her last night working at the pumpkin patch (a Disneyland version of a pumpkin patch) is to sample all the snacks. And the art was lovely!


Nonfiction November 2019 ~ Week 4

Week 4: (Nov. 18 to 22) – What Makes a Favorite?

Hosted by Leeann at Shelf Aware

We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

I like stories that are told (or topics that are explored) within wider context.

Erik Larson’s books are prime examples of this. In The Devil in the White City, for example, it’s not not just the story of the Chicago World’s Fair or just the story of H. H. Holmes, but the combination of the two—and how one enabled the other.

Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America's Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist

Even within my favorite topic, magic history, the best books aren’t the ones about the doings of a single magician. Jim Steinmeyer’s Hiding the Elephant looks at the golden age of magic through the lens of a single trick: Houdini’s disappearing elephant. One of my favorite biographies, The Magician and the Cardsharp by Karl Johnson, is about Dai Vernon and his search for a gambler who could deal cards from the center of a deck of cards.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

One last example: I’ve read quite a few biographies of Nikola Tesla and some of them are quite good, but my favorite is W. Bernard Carlson’s Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age, which puts Tesla’s major inventions in the context of the wider political and economical world. It also goes deeper into electrical engineering than I’m comfortable with, but I respect that about it.

{Book} Death by Suggestion

This book was provided to me by the editor for review consideration.

Death by Suggestion: An Anthology of 19th and Early 20th-Century Tales of Hypnotically Induced Murder, Suicide, and Accidental Death

Death by Suggestion: An Anthology of 19th and Early 20th-Century Tales of Hypnotically Induced Murder, Suicide, and Accidental Death, edited by Donald K Hartman

DEATH BY SUGGESTION gathers together twenty-two short stories from the 19th and early 20th century where hypnotism is used to cause death-either intentionally or by accident. Revenge is a motive for many of the stories, but this anthology also contains tales where characters die because they have a suicide wish, or they need to kill an abusive or unwanted spouse, or they just really enjoy inflicting pain on others. The book also includes an introduction which provides a brief history of hypnotism as well as a listing of real life cases where the use of hypnotism led to (or allegedly led to) death. (via Goodreads)

Why Was I Interested In This Book?
The late 19th and early 20th century was awash in periodicals. A wealth of literature is tucked away, nearly forgotten, in these magazines. It always surprises me how modernly “genre” some of these stories are, especially since they aren’t from the pulp magazine that appear by the 1920s. It’s fun to see what gems can be mined, especially on a particular theme.

In the case of Death by Suggestion, Donald Hartman has pulled together over twenty tales of hypnosis and mesmerism from the Victorian and Edwardian eras  in which death also plays a part. Hypnosis was quite the fad topic at the time and Trillby, the novel that spawned the character of Svengali, was a bestseller.

What Did I Think?
This was an entertaining collection. Appropriately, I read it during October and enjoyed all the perilous situations. There are murders; there are suicides; there are accidents. As is often the case for me, though, (maybe it’s my aging brain) I wish I wouldn’t have read it straight through. The stories tend to start feeling the same when I read too many in a row. It’s not the fault of the stories.

The anthology has some recognizable names (Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Conan Doyle) and some rather unknowns, as you might expect. In all cases the quality of the writing is pretty good, which is not always the case when delving into old magazines. I do wish the stories had been placed in chronological order, but that’s probably my over-want for order kicking in. I’ll probably eventually reread this anthology, but reorder the stories.

But, I’d also unreservedly recommend this anthology for Deal Me In, if one might start thinking about the 2020 edition of that challenge already. The story choice and stories themselves are far better than the Hitchcock anthologies I’ve been reading this year…

Original Publishing info: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018
My Copy: Kindle edition provided by the editor
Genre: mystery/crime