BOOK REVIEW: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

32620332._SY475_Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBT, Contemporary

Read Start Date: April 11, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 15, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My Review: This book was written back in 2017, but I guess has had a resurgence of readers due to being a “booktok” recommendation (?). It is also, as of the writing of this review, on the NY Times Bestseller’s list. Needless to say, I had high expectations. Although “booktok” got it right this time, I had a really hard time writing a review of this book.

What do you say about something, when you liked everything, for no express reason? From the very first moment, I was captivated by this story. It was interesting. There was mystery (why did Evelyn choose Monique to ghost write her biography?). There was love (all be it, not in all of Evelyn’s marriages). There was friendship, betrayal, a glimpse into the “rich and famous”…

At the center of it all, a formative woman with a secret — she was bisexual at a time when that was not permitted.

You loved Evelyn, but you also loved to hate her. She was caring, but also at times selfish. Monique was interesting in her own way, even though her story was typical i.e., woman has husband, woman has mixed feelings about divorcing said husband (did I do the right thing, etc etc), woman finds in the end that she deserves true love (which she didn’t have with her ex).

The characters were well developed and seemed true to real people i.e., I could imagine that this was a book about a real person, or at very least based upon a real person.

I don’t want to say too much else, otherwise I will give away essential plot points. This book is highly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW: Murder in the Neighborhood by Ellen J. Green

60152986Title: Murder in the Neighborhood

Author: Ellen J. Green

Audiobook Length: 9 hours 38 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Read Start Date: April 7, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 10, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On September 6, 1949, twenty-eight-year-old Howard Barton Unruh shot thirteen people in less than twelve minutes on his block in East Camden, New Jersey.

The shocking true story of the first recorded mass shooting in America has never been told, until now.

The sky was cloudless that morning when twelve-year-old Raymond Havens left his home on River Road.

His grandmother had sent him to get a haircut at the barbershop across the street – where he was about to witness his neighbor and friend Howard open fire on the customers inside. Told through the eyes of the young boy who visited Howard regularly to listen to his war stories, and the mother trying to piece together the disturbing inner workings of her son’s mind, Ellen Green uncovers the chilling true story of Howard Unruh – the quiet oddball who meticulously plotted his revenge on the neighbors who shunned him and became one of America’s first mass killers. With access to Howard’s diaries, newly released police reports and psychiatric records alongside interviews with surviving family members and residents of the neighborhood, A Murder in the Neighborhood will have readers of In Cold Blood, If You Tell and American Predator absolutely gripped.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Murder in the Neighborhood tells the story of the first recorded mass shooting in the US (which took place in 1949), from the perspective of 12-year-old Raymond Havens who witnessed the shootings and Freda Unruh, the killer’s mother.

Sitting here in 2022, with dozens of mass shootings have occurred in recent decades, the facts surrounding the first mass shooting in 1949, alarmingly, doesn’t seem shocking to me. What is clear, is that nothing has changed since 1949. Through a gripping narrative, the author explores not only the crime, but the events leading up to the crime. We get to see not only the aftermath, but Howard Unruh’s evolution from veteran to mass murderer.

I am not sure if the author intended it, but as I read this book, I could really see the parallels with the mass shootings taking place today, and it is honestly maddening that nothing has changed in 70+ years. This book is not only a story about an event in history, but also gives us a lens into our future.

I read a book recently that posited that people who commit suicide do so only when their chosen method of suicide is at hand. In other words, the method of suicide is intrinsically linked to the suicide itself. E.g. if Person X wants to shoot himself, but can’t find a gun, he will not just use another method, he will, in fact, not commit suicide at all.

This made me wonder whether mass killings are similar. What would have happened if Howard Unruh did not have access to guns? Would he have been able to shoot as many people? Would he have stopped at just the Cohens — the original intended victims? Unruh had planned to murder the Cohens for their ceaseless bullying, but Unruh describes that as he started shooting, he couldn’t stop. He just kept going. Shooting people, whether they had “wronged” him or not. He even killed 3 children for no reason. Now, if he had a knife, say, would he have been able to keep killing before someone stopped him? I guess we will never know.

The book seemed to be well researched, and I liked how this book not only discussed the hard facts surrounding the killings, but also went into the psychology of Unruh. As readers, we got to see the “why” (as ridiculous as his reasons were), not only the how. I also really liked the writing style of the author. It was written like a fiction book i.e. the telling of a story rather than a recitation of facts, which made it very easy to read.

If you are a true crime fan who otherwise reads mostly fiction (like me) I think this book is right up your alley.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Passports and Pacifiers—Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time by Kaitlyn Jain

55608649Title: Passports and Pacifiers–Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time

Author:  Kaitlyn Jain

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 37 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Parenting, Travel

Read Start Date: June 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 12, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Starting with two bumbling parents taking their Never-Sleep infant to Italy and ending with an adventure across Scandinavia, Passports and Pacifiers follows a naïve, baby-wearing family on memorable, affordable, and nap-centered trips.

You’ll be regaled with honest, often hilarious, accounts of their misadventures, like losing the only pacifier of the trip, missing ferries, and soothing tantrums across the globe. The Jains find deals—traveling just a tad off the prime season, finding buy one get two flights, and using credit card miles and free grandparent babysitters—and save where they can.

In addition, you’ll receive hard-earned travel tips like:
• Entertaining kids during long flights
• Packing light (while bringing what you need!)
• Driving with a carsick-prone toddler
• Keeping your Ever-Hungry spouse happy

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was excited to read this book because I also love to travel, and now I have a 10 month old daughter. I really liked the lessons learned and the tips the author provided. The stories were also humorous and the substance of the book was, in general, a good read. Listening to it made me long to travel and gave me some inspiration as to which places to go to.

I would have rated the book 4 or even 5 stars had it not been for the poor quality of the audiobook. To be honest, while I was enjoying the substance of the book, it was hard to finish because of the audio. The book was read by the author, and the recording was very unprofessional. You could hear pages turning, mouth noises, and once the author even stumbled over a sentence. Why was this recording not better edited? Additionally, the author would sometimes pause in weird places in the sentence, which prompted me to listen at 1.25x speed, as this normalized the reading somehow.

While I would highly recommend this book, I would ONLY recommend the print or ebook version. Steer clear of the audiobook!

10 Book Reviews

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Who Will Accompany You? by Meg Stafford

60168257._SY475_Title: Who Will Accompany You?

Author: Meg Stafford

Audiobook Length: 6 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Travel, Memoir

Read Start Date: June 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Award-winning memoirist Meg Stafford has an adventurous spirit, and this time she takes us along for the ride. When her daughters venture into terra incognita-one of them meditating in the Himalayas and the other negotiating with the Colombian military-Stafford decides to go along. In the process, she reflects on her own lifetime of wanderlust and what it means for a parent to love and to let go. Generous, insightful, and deeply funny, Stafford is the ideal tour guide for a journey as big as the world and as intimate as the human heart.

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Meg Stafford is a mom who has accompanied her daughters on several trips, namely Bhutan / Nepal and Columbia. We also get to read excerpts from the daughters’ diaries relating to these said trips.

This book made we want to travel again! I used to do it all the time before COVID started and since then I’ve barely gone anywhere, except for maybe once or twice a year. Listening to the stories of these women’s travels, especially in Asia, I wished that I could visit these places.

This was a short, but pleasant listen that made a good companion to exercise / multi tasking.

10 Book Reviews

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Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System by M. Chris Fabricant

59427482Title: Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System

Author: M. Chris Fabricant

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 15 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime, Science, Politics, Social Justice

Read Start Date: April 3, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: An insider’s journey into the heart of a broken, racist system of justice and the role junk science plays in maintaining the status quo.

From CSI to Forensic Files to the celebrated reputation of the FBI crime lab, “forensic scientists” have long been mythologized in American popular culture as infallible crime solvers. Judges and juries put their faith in “expert witnesses” and innocent people have been executed as a result. Innocent people are on death row today, condemned by junk science.

In 2012, the Innocence Project began searching for prisoners convicted by junk science, and three men, each convicted of capital murder, became M. Chris Fabricant’s clients. Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System chronicles the fights to overturn their wrongful convictions and to end the use of the “science” that destroyed their lives. Weaving together courtroom battles from Mississippi to Texas to New York City, Fabricant takes the reader on a journey into the heart of a broken, racist system of justice and the role forensic science plays in maintaining the status quo.

At turns gripping, enraging, and moving, Junk Science is a meticulously researched insider’s perspective of the American criminal justice system. Previously untold stories of wrongful executions, corrupt prosecutors, and quackery masquerading as science animate Fabricant’s astonishing true-crime narrative. The book also features a full-color photo insert that illustrates the junk science explored by the author.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is really interesting and informative and tells several stories of innocent men convicted using “junk science” e.g. bite mark evidence. It is such a travesty of justice for innocent men to sit in prison for decades, or even be executed, because of “evidence” that isn’t even valid, while the real guilty party is allowed to live their life a free man.

The author is an innocent project attorney who works to get justice for these unfortunate men sitting in prison after being wrongfully convicted. The first person narrative of the author brings a personal perspective to the cases which are being analyzed in the book, and you can really sense the author is incensed over the injustice.

The book seems to also be well researched (in addition to maybe being first hand knowledge of the facts) and it is well written. I was engaged the entire way through, even though the overall message was somehow redundant — i.e., that junk science is garbage.

If you like true crime stories, and Netflix shows such as The Staircase, then you will definitely like this book.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.