Review: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and YouStamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America was first released in 2016.

Kendi, a Boston University Professor and founder of the BU Center for Antiracist Research, was awarded the National Book Award in nonfiction for the title. It’s also close to 600-pages by a man who can certainly run intellectual circles around me. For that fact alone, I find it intimidating.

Luckily for me and the rest of the world, Kendi decided he wanted to find someone who could take his ideas and write it in a way that would be more agreeable to a younger audience. Hence, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You was born.

It sounds like it took a little cajoling, but eventually Reynolds, a well-loved author of Children’s and Young Adult fiction, agreed to take on the project.

I chose to listen to the audiobook because I knew that it was narrated by Reynolds. I’m so happy that I did. I would have enjoyed it had I read a hard copy, but hearing it from him, in the way he felt it should be read, was a really special experience.

This book offers a concise history of racism, and the racist ideas that have been used to justify slavery and oppression of black people in the United States, from the time of the first slaves arrival to the country, up through the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s framed through three separate schools of thought: segregationists, assimilationists and antiracists. It explains how racist ideologies were constructed in a way to gain and keep power; how they led to the systemic issues prevalent today.

Reynolds states numerous times that this is not a history book, and you know what, it doesn’t feel like one. The way this is presented makes it feel like you are talking with a friend. It’s engaging, it’s forthright and it’s a must read.

The entire way through I was jotting down ideas, people and events that I want to learn more about. After reading this, I am no longer intimidated by Kendi’s original work. I want to read it and plan to by the end of the year!

I cannot recommend this enough. Particularly the audiobook. If you haven’t read this one yet, you absolutely should.

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Review: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass IncidentDead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Mountain is an eerie recounting of the Dyatlov Pass Incident exceptionally well-told by Donnie Eichar.

I find this to be one of the most haunting unsolved mysteries of all-time.

In February of 1959, nine experienced hikers set out on a challenging back-packing expedition in the Russian Ural Mountains. One hiker survived and only because he departed early due to medical complications.

The young people involved were all college age, with the exception of one, and were members of a hiking club at their university.

Led by Igor Dyatlov, their goal for this particular hike was to receive a Grade III hiking certification, because of this the mountaineers kept copious notes and took photo documentation of their journey.

When they didn’t return home on the date expected, people naturally assumed they must have run into complications that delayed them, but they would arrive any day.

That day never came. A search party is sent out and what they find is extremely shocking and mysterious, spurring numerous theories as to what caused the hiker’s demise.

I won’t go into the horrific details of the discovery of the bodies, just know everything from government conspiracies, armed men, chemical attacks to aliens, were considered.

Donnie Eichar became interested in the case, like many of us, after hearing of the mystery by chance. As a documentary filmmaker, his natural instincts are to do whatever it takes to learn more.

Eichar connects with individuals inside Russia still interested in the case, travels there, pours over the old travel diaries and photos, interviews people involved, including the sole survivor and even hikes the same path the group took.

With the book, we alternate between Eichar’s historical retelling of the incident as he understands it, and his journey over the course of his investigation.

Even though I had read and watched quite a few videos on this incident, I found Eichar’s theory behind the mystery to be wholly unique, interesting and quite possible. While there is no way to say this is definitely what lead to their deaths, it is a very strong theory.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about unsolved mysteries; bonus if you are a hiker, mountaineer or rock climber. Eichar’s writing is engaging and he truly presents this tale with respect and grace.

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Review: Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Know My NameKnow My Name by Chanel Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This has to be the most powerful memoir I have ever read. The courage and unapologetic nature of the writing brought me to tears more than once.

I am so proud of Chanel Miller, a woman I have never met, but that is genuinely what I feel; proud of her strength, as really she speaks for so many.

Before she came out to the world, Chanel Miller was known as Emily Doe. Her victim impact statement from a sexual assault trial went viral after being posted on Buzzfeed.

This book follows Chanel from just prior to the assault, through the night it occurred, the immediate aftermath and the years of struggle through both the court and healing process.

It was really heavy at times, as you can imagine since it recollects such a traumatic event, but I felt that Miller conveyed it with such honesty and grace. It’s worth the heavy heart, for sure.

I picked up this audiobook on the recommendation of a friend who had just read it. I’m so glad she told me about her experience with reading it and now I feel like it is my duty to recommend it to others. So, please pick this one up.

The writing is fantastic. Miller made her trauma relatable. She talks about things I know many women will be nodding their heads to while reading. This book is a phenomenal exploration of rape culture and the treatment of women and girls within our society.

At over 15-hours, it’s a fairly long audiobook. Initially, I couldn’t imagine how that could be, but I wouldn’t cut anything out. Every moment of this leaves an impact.

It’s truly an exceptional memoir, one that will stay with me for years to come. Highly, highly recommend!

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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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