Currently Reading: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death RowThe Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

After reading, and thoroughly enjoying, The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South earlier this year, my interest in wrongful conviction cases has been rekindled.

The Sun Does Shine is Anthony Ray Hinton’s memoir of his 28-years on Death Row after a wrongful conviction for two murders. After a decade of lackluster representation, Hinton’s appeal was taken on by the Equal Justice Initiative, eventually securing his freedom.

I am really looking forward to reading Hinton’s story and urge everyone to check it out as well. I have also linked the Equal Justice Initiative above, if you are interested in learning more about their organization and how you can help.

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Review: Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America by Michael Eric Dyson

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White AmericaTears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the synopsis:

‘Short, emotional, literary, powerful―Tears We Cannot Stop is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read.’

There are innumerable passages within this insightful and thought-provoking work by Michael Eric Dyson that I could quote here, but I’m not going to do that because I want you to read it for yourself.

The audiobook, narrated by the author, is just over 5-hours and in my opinion, is the most impactful way to read this. His gift in oration brings such fire and heart to the message, it is not to be missed.

Five hours out of your life.

Open your ears, open your mind, open your heart. Just listen. Don’t argue, nit-pick, ‘yeah, but’ your way through this.

JUST LISTEN.

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Review: The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Tucker Carrington and Radley Belko

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American SouthThe Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South by Radley Balko
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Building off the wrongful conviction cases of two men, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, The Cadaver King and Country Dentist examines the horrifying, modern-day injustices put forth by the courts and death investigation units within the state of Mississippi.

Stemming back to two men, Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West, who used faulty science and misleading proclamations in order to gain convictions, this book shines a glaring light on systemic issues within the criminal justice system.

Although the impetus for the narrative is the Brooks/Brewer cases, the book then goes back and provides a history of the coroner system and the use of forensic science in death investigations.

From there we get accounts of the careers of both Hayne and West, the details of which left me cringing. The horrifying and vastly unchecked issues with their work lead to so many botched investigations and trials, it is shocking to think anyone they helped to convict, wrongful or not, could still be held in prison.

Brooks and Brewer spent a combined 30-years in prison, wrongfully convicted, on the shakiest of claims put forth by these two ‘doctors’. If this book doesn’t put fear into your heart, you are made of stronger stuff than I.

I felt the format of this book kept it engaging throughout and provided enough back ground information on the coroner system and forensic science to make an impact. By showing specific cases, it did help to bring these issues to life.

These are real people who have suffered, and continue to suffer, due to a system, that even after an obvious mistake has been made, values protocol, and politics, more than human life.

I applaud the authors for taking on this topic and bringing this story to light. Well done.

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Review: American Predator by Maureen Callahan

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st CenturyAmerican Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meg’s advice for October:

Read.
This.
Book.

Me upon completion:

You want to feel this way in Spooktober, don’t you???
Quite honestly, this was by far the most disturbing book I read all month.

American Predator is a nonfiction account of the capture and subsequent investigation of serial killer, Israel Keyes. Fortunately for the reader, this is much more than a droll portrayal of one monster’s heinous crimes. This is a compelling recounting of the investigation of his case, beginning with his final kill and going backward through time.

I thought this was a clever formatting choice by the author. It made the story seem more like you were part of the investigation versus starting at the beginning of his life and moving forward that way.

Reading about Israel was completely disturbing for me. Here was a man, a contemporary of mine, born in the same year, and to walk through his crimes was shocking. The fact that he traveled extensively in the state where I was living at the time was the icing on the cake.

His level of arrogance yet ability to plan and to leave no evidence was bone-chilling. He used his knowledge of surveillance and technology to constantly fly under the radar. One would think his arrogance could possibly make him slip up but it never really did until the final case when it seems things were beginning to unravel a bit.

Making the case even more disturbing was the seemingly random selection of his victims. There’s so much more but I don’t want to give anything away.

In short, read this book.

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Review: Too Much Is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells

Too Much Is Not EnoughToo Much Is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was absolutely EVERYTHING a memoir should be.


All the stars for a star!

Andrew Rannaells grew up in Omaha, far from the glittering lights of Broadway, but he always felt he was meant for the stage. He felt a pull for a life outside of Nebraska and throwing caution to the wind, made that happen for himself.

This witty and candid memoir follows Rannells from his early days of community theater, through his first days in NYC, his attempt at college, friendships, turbulent relationships, successes and losses. Along the way you feel drawn in, like you are more of a friend than a reader.

I really enjoyed this. I giggled a lot, I shed a few tears, I learned some things, felt inspired and even a bit jealous at times. I mean, he had an apartment he designed to be just like Carrie Bradshaw’s! How could I not be a wee bit jealous of that?

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Andrew’s work or even people just looking to read something about a boy, from Nebraska, taking on the world and against all odds, crushing it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crown Archetype, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I had so much fun with it and appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern IrelandSay Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Very impressive, Radden Keefe, very impressive.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is an intricate and moving piece of narrative nonfiction concerning The Troubles in the North of Ireland, particularly centered in Belfast, beginning in 1969 through the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Bookending Radden Keefe’s extraordinary compilation of these events is the story of a mother of ten, Jean McConville, who was kidnapped from her home in late 1972, becoming one of ‘the disappeared’ during this bitter conflict. McConville had been accused of being a paid informant for the British Army and it was common knowledge at the time that the IRA was responsible for her disappearance.

This book seems remarkably researched and indeed, Radden Keefe, provides copious amounts of notes at the end of the main story detailing where his information is coming from, etc. During the course of his 4-years of research, he interviewed around 100 people, although many more refused to speak with him, as talking about The Troubles can still hold repercussions.

I was so impressed with how he was able to bring such a sensitive and emotional topic to life on the page. Weaving together an immersive account of a time fraught with violence, betrayals and loss. There are descriptive accounts of the roles of various players at the time such as Gerry Adams, Brendan Hughes, Bobby Sands and the Price Sisters, Dolours and Marian.

One of the most interesting areas explored, for me, was the hunger strikes carried out by many of the volunteers captured and imprisoned by the British. I hadn’t really heard too much about that before and found it a horrifying and fascinating avenue of resistance; handled really well within these pages.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in 20th century Irish history or anyone interested in The Troubles in particular. I definitely have a couple of people in my own life that I will be purchasing this book for as a gift.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate having the opportunity to read this one. A big thank you as well to the author, Patrick Radden Keefe, for taking on this project as I feel this is a part of history that deserves to be remembered. Well done.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. Read this book!

Slainte~

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Review: Insane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie

Insane Mode: How Elon Musk's Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of OilInsane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Even if it died tomorrow, Tesla has already achieved what it set out to do: accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport. It has convinced the world that electric cars can be great.”

I really enjoyed Hamish McKenzie’s overview of the pending electric revolution within the auto industry. I learned so much, particularly in regards to the progress various nations around the world are making to be rid of gas powered vehicles.

Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Elon Musk fangirl and Tesla shareholder.

This being said, my enjoyment factor for this book may be a bit heightened compared to an average reader who perhaps doesn’t have that love ((ahem, background)) in regards to Musk & Tesla. I believe in him and his passion for his companies and their products is absolutely contagious.

As far as the format and writing for this book, I think they were both very well executed. McKenzie has a journalism background and I think that definitely shines through in the best ways. His ease with explaining a fairly large and complex sector of the market was impressive and I appreciated the way he examined the big picture; aka. looked at the issue of transitioning to electric vehicles from a global perspective and the effects that it could have long-term.

If you are a gear head or a tech guru you should definitely check this book out. It is loaded with up-to-date information on where we stand in our transition away from the internal combustion engine into a more sustainable, as well as potentially autonomous vehicular future.

Whether you are a believer yet or not, it stands to reason that within a generation or two, the kids of the future will look at our current gas powered vehicles like my nieces and nephews look at rotary dial telephones. This concise book is a great start to understanding the history, scope and issues in a nonpolitical way and extends forth a positive outlook on the future while also questioning how these changes will affect our economy and society in future.

My parting words are, Elon, I love you…oh and I want to thank the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to read a book early and provide my feedback. Cheers~

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One of the best memoirs I have ever read…

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected AdventureThe Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I adored this book! As memoirs go – top, top notch – super interesting and engaging!

The Milk Lady of Bangalore took me completely by surprise. I had no idea what this was going to be like and within the first few pages I was hooked. Narayan, a journalist by trade, writes in such a pleasing way. To me, it flows like you are sitting for coffee with a friend and she is telling you a very detailed story. I couldn’t put this one down and ended up reading it in three days.

This is a memoir – one of the best I have EVER read – but it is truly so much more than that. The basic gist is that Narayan decides with her husband to move back to their native-India after living for 20-years in the United States. They both have parents who are getting older and as they have two children, they want their children to know their grandparents and experience their culture. They move into a large apartment building in Bangalore and on move in day, Narayan, by chance, meets Sarala, the milk lady. This is how it all begins.

This book is a beautiful examination of culture, friendship, life, love, loss and growth. I laughed and I cried. You know you have found a special book when one brings out such a wide range of emotions – in my opinion anyway. It was interesting to read about Narayan really learning about her own culture for a second time. I could absolutely relate with a lot of her feelings having moved away from the area I grew up in, and being away for many years, going back, you see things with fresh eyes. You can appreciate how much culture varies from area to area and that can really bring forth a lot of self reflection about ones own beliefs, traditions, goals, wants, needs and really where one feels like they belong.

Now, COWS:

In this book you will also learn so much about cows – magnificent animals, they really are. This book felt to me like a microhistory of cows and their role/significance in India culture, particularly through different Hindu beliefs and customs. I absolutely adored that aspect of the book. If you are someone who enjoys that type of book, you will love this. Also, if you are a foodie, you will probably love this and should definitely read it. There is a lot in here about milk, the different types / properties of milk. I am telling you, fascinating.

Overall, I applaud Shoba Narayan for her efforts with this and I say, thank you, for sharing this part of your life with the world. It was beautiful! Also, a big thank you to the publisher, Algonquin Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and apologize that it has taken me so long to get to this! One of my favorite and most unique reads of 2018 so far!

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Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Publication Date: 1966    |    Rating: 5-stars!

A classic! An absolute masterpiece of true crime literature. Gritty and intelligent. This should be on everyone’s ‘books to read in a lifetime’ list. As many of you may know, In Cold Blood is the true account of the heinous murders of the Clutter Family in 1959 Kansas. In my opinion, the writing style of this account is absolutely flawless. Through Capote’s words, you are transported to this small town; you get alternating accounts from the family, from the killers, from other residents close to the crime. The account of the actual murders is bone-chilling and can disturb sleep, believe me!

This is my second time reading this book and I found it just as impactful during my reread. To me it is interesting to think about Capote compiling his research for this. He actually went and lived in this town, along with one of his closest friends, Harper Lee, and they painstakingly interviewed hundreds of people associated with the events. Just the sheer amount of data compiled and how it was intricately woven together fascinates me – yes, I know that is what nonfiction novelists do but this was a truly groundbreaking piece of journalistic writing at the time and should be appreciated as such.

Another interesting aspect of this for me is how interested Capote was in the psychology behind the killers motivations and actions, as well as their complex relationship with one another both before and after the crimes. I think anyone who enjoys true crime, criminology, psychology and even sociology will find this book absolutely captivating. If you have been putting off reading this for any reason, please stop, read this…now!

Do you like nonfiction books? If so, what is your favorite sub-genre within nonfiction? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below and you can reach me through the contact links to the right >

Review: Endurance by Scott Kelly

Publication Date: October 19, 2017

Subtitle: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

All the stars in the universe! As memoirs go, this is top-notch! If you like science, you need to read this book. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Scott Kelly himself, and was hooked from start to finish. For me personally, I find it very hard to critique a memoir. I mean, it is that person’s story, it is up to them how they choose to tell it. This being said, even if I was a better reviewer I would have a hard time finding anything to critique within this book. Detailing everything from his childhood, his navy pilot training and career, astronaut training and numerous space missions, this book is replete with interesting facts and stories. I didn’t want it to end – I flew through it and recommend it for everyone. Scott Kelly has lived one hell of a life and you should learn about it!

Do you enjoy reading memoirs? If you do, what is one you would recommend to everyone? I want to know – comment here or send me a message – I would love to hear from you!

Cheers~