BOOK REVIEW: I’ve Never Met a Dead Person I Didn’t Like by Sherri Dillard

42789300Title: I’ve Never Met a Dead Person I Didn’t Like

Author: Sherri Dillard

Book Length: 200 pages

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Religion, Spirituality

Read Start Date: April 9, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 28, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The extraordinary travels of a young, alone and broke psychic. The heart-warming and adventurous true story of a young woman on her own at age seventeen, broke and surrounded by talkative spirits that don’t want to go away. Living in-between the physical world and the spirit realm, yet feeling a stranger in both, Sherrie Dillard criss-crossed the country by bus, train and hitchhiking in a search for answers. Along the way she was led to help the poor and homeless on skid row, install water systems in Mayan Indian villages, live alone in a tent in the mountains and make art with juvenile offenders. It was in these diverse environments that she came face to face with saints, angels and dark spirits and learned to trust her psychic ability. From her early secret encounters with spirits who guided and ultimately saved her life, Sherrie Dillard finally accepted that what made her different and odd, was also her greatest gift. I’ve Never Met A Dead Person I Didn’t Like, is a powerful story for anyone who listens to – or doubts their own intuition and the presence of their loved ones on the other side. Even in our darkest hour, in the depths of loneliness and overwhelming challenges, divine guidance and miracles are always present.

My Review: The Goodreads plot description actually makes the book sound much better than it is. I had high expectations and was disappointed. I received this book from a publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I think that I received the book because I had written a good review of Haunted: Horror of Haverfordwest. My review of that book is here.

I did not know that this book was a religious book, otherwise I never would have read it. I was totally open to believe that the author saw ghosts, until that is, she said that she sees the spirit of “Mary”, angels and saints. I was immediately turned off and became a disbeliever in her “psychic” ability. I also found her Mayan spirit “Tetchuwatchu” to also be unbelievable. I googled the name and literally nothing came up. Is it even possible that google doesn’t know something? The author claims that the name means “teach you watch you”, but I mean come on. Are we really supposed to believe that the ancient Mayans had names that sound like the English meaning of their Mayan name? “Techtu” in Mayan means “teach you” in English? Highly doubtful.

Do I believe that the author has stronger intuition and instincts than most people? Sure, it’s possible. Who doesn’t get bad feelings sometimes when danger is present. I could even believe that the author believes she sees these spirits, but it just didn’t seem realistic to me.

I am going to have to give this book 2.5 stars. I am really on the fence as to whether to give it 2 or 3 stars. In the end I really just struggled to finish this book. I definitely would have given her book 3 stars had it not been for the religious aspect. Overall the book was, for my taste, too spiritual and not paranormal enough. However, if I were open to religion or spiritual topics, then maybe I would have liked this book better. That is to say, please don’t totally discount this book based solely upon this review.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

 

 

 

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: A Serial Killer’s Daughter by Kerri Rawson

38915935Title: A Serial Killer’s Daughter

Author: Kerri Rawson

Book Length (Kindle): 3437 Loc (336 pages)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Crime, True Crime, Autobiography, Memoir

Read Start Date: March 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 8, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “In 2005, Kerri Rawson heard a knock on the door of her apartment. When she opened it, an FBI agent informed her that her father had been arrested for murdering ten people, including two children. It was then that she learned her father was the notorious serial killer known as BTK, a name he’d given himself that described the horrific way he committed his crimes: bind, torture, kill. As news of his capture spread, Wichita celebrated the end of a thirty-one-year nightmare.

For Kerri Rawson, another was just beginning. She was plunged into a black hole of horror and disbelief. The same man who had been a loving father, a devoted husband, church president, Boy Scout leader, and a public servant had been using their family as a cover for his heinous crimes since before she was born. Everything she had believed about her life had been a lie”.

My ReviewWhat I liked. What drew me initially to this book was the fact that the author was the daughter of a notorious serial killer, BTK, i.e., Denis Rader. Having read multiple true crime books in the past, I was interested to get a perspective from someone unique to her situation. Usually true crime books are written by third parties who have done extensive research on the crimes and the killer. In A Serial Killer’s Daughter, we not only get to read about the crimes, but we also get to experience the “behind the scenes” look at the killer himself. Family man or monster? Average guy or sadist? Through out the book Rawson struggles to reconcile these two images of her father — yet Rawson admits that her father was volitale, sometimes erupting into anger and violence without much provocation.

One of the things that stuck with me was Rawson’s description of the BTK killer weeping over his father’s death bed. Rawson’s mother said, “I don’t think your dad had ever sat beside someone who died before.” Little did she know… I have to wonder, what is the psychology of a man who can cry over the death of his own father, but then take the lives of 10 people without empathy or remorse? It is truly chilling. So was Rawson’s visceral need to love and/or forgive her father — to somehow separate the man she knew from the deeds he had done — as though they were 2 different people.

“I missed my father. That was one of the first times I’d admitted that. Was it okay to admit I missed a serial killer? That I loved one? I didn’t miss a serial killer, didn’t love one–I missed my dad. I loved my dad….It was always going to be that simple and that hard.”

What I didn’t like. I would have given this book 4 stars rather than 3 had it not been for all of the religious aspects. I understand that Kerri Rawson is a religious person, and it is obvious that religion is important in her life, but she basically wrote in stream of consciousness /  internal dialogue. For example:

“I spoke of God’s unending ability to forgive–to love. But I was stubbornly holding out on doing it myself. I didn’t know if I could forgive my dad. ‘God? Are you asking me to forgive him or to write him also–let him back into my life? I don’t know if I can–I don’t know if I can trust him.’ ‘You can trust me–I’m your father too.’ ‘But my father hurt me.’ ‘Yes. Remember Joseph?’

And

“I spent the next several weeks stuck on the couch, stewing over my latest predicament, bawling in pain as I tried to keep my toddler son out of trouble, and wrestling with God. Quiet, peaceful, easy, little life, God. Remember? But God lets nothing go to waste. We need to work on your forgiveness problem–we’ve got nothing but time. I don’t wanna God. Do it anyway.”

Aside from the distraction of reading someone’s internal dialogue, I am not a religious person, so the God references, which happened A LOT, were super annoying. I just don’t understand how the portion in italics above helped to move the story along? This is a book, not a diary, afterall.

Professional Reader

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: Calypso by David Sedaris

35832073

Title: Calypso

Author: David Sedaris

Book Length (Audiobook): 6 hours 45 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Humor, Nonfiction, Essays, Memoir

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: Calypso is a series of essays or stories. Most of the stories are about Sedaris and his family. Goodreads says “When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most. And life at the Sea Section, as he names the vacation home, is exactly as idyllic as he imagined, except for one tiny, vexing realization: it’s impossible to take a vacation from yourself.”

The Writing: The writing is excellent. David Sedaris is probably one of the funniest authors I have ever read. I find myself laughing out loud at some of the many stories (I usually never laugh while reading, even if its supposed to be funny). For example, I particularly liked his story about getting a fit bit. Once he got the fit bit, he was obsessed with getting steps. Starting out with 10,000 he soon graduated to 20,000 steps a day, then 30,000, all the way to 60,000 steps! From walking around his tiny Sussex village (he was living in England at the time), to picking trash up off the road, he would find things to do just to make the steps. When his fitbit broke, he asked himself “Walking twenty-five miles, or even running up the stairs and back, suddenly seemed pointless, since without the steps being counted and registered, what use were they?” He promptly purchased another one.

The Audiobook Recording: the audiobook recording is also really great. The audiobook is read by the author, which makes it extra special, because, well, he is just a super funny guy. Parts of the audiobook seem to be recordings of his stand up comedy acts. My favorite stand up act was about the things people said around the world to curse out another person during a road rage attack. It went something like this: “The Romanians really do lead the world when it comes to cursing. “What have you got for me?” I asked a woman from Transylvania who was now living in Vienna. “Shove your hand up my ass and jerk off my shit,” she offered. I was stunned. “Anyone else would say, ‘Shove your hand up my ass,’ and then run out of imagination,” I told her. “You people, though, you just keep going. And that’s what makes you the champions you are.” Maybe it’s not too late to learn how to drive, I thought, watching as she walked out the door and onto the unsuspecting streets of Vienna, this poet, this queen, this glittering jewel in a city of flint.”

Expectations/Recommendations: I previously read another book by David Sedaris (Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls) back in 2017, and I remember liking it. This book surpassed my expectations. I would definitely recommend it.

BOOK REVIEW: Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth

43784097

Title: Black Klansman

Author: Ron Stallworth

Book Length (Audiobook): 5 hours 52 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: In 1978 Ron Stallworth was the first African-American Intelligence Unit Detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. As part of his job, he scanned the daily newspapers for any reports or information concerning hints of subversive activities which could impact the welfare or safety of Colorado Springs. One day he saw a classified ad for the KKK. He answered the ad, pretending to be a white man and racist. When the KKK called him back, it sparked a year-long undercover investigation into the KKK, during which time a white undercover cop pretended to be Stallworth in person, while Stallworth continued to be himself over the telephone.

As per Goodreads (link above), “Black Klansman is an amazing true story that unfolds like a crime thriller and a searing portrait of a divided America and the extraordinary heroes who dare to fight back.”

What I thought: Overall, the book was good. It was a really interesting subject, and one that I had never heard of before. The writing was good and so was the audiobook version. If I had to compare it to the other memoirs I have read this year so far, I would say it ranks toward the bottom, but that’s not to say this book is not good…I just read some really fantastic books in January, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: Becoming by Michelle Obama

38746485Title: Becoming

Author: Michelle Obama

Book Length (Audiobook): 19 hours 10 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Links: Goodreads and Amazon

Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir

Read Start Date: January 19, 2019

Read Finish Date: January 27, 2019

The Audiobook of Becoming is read by the author, Michelle Obama. This is really fantastic because its like the author herself is talking directly to you about her own story. On the list of memoirs I have read so far this year, (Educated, The Year of Less, and Girl Wash Your Face), this book ranks toward the top.

The book is very well written and M. Obama writes with the openness and frankness that is the foundation of every good memoir. From fertility issues to the white house, M. Obama seems to hold nothing back.

As the Goodreads synopsis (link above) puts it, “In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”

I couldn’t have said it better. This is a must read for 2019. I have some spoilers in the rest of the review, so feel free not to read on.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Becoming by Michelle Obama”

BOOK REVIEW: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

35542451Title: Girl Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be

Author: Rachel Hollis

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 4 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Non-fiction, Humor, Memoir, Self-help

Read Start Date: January 3, 2019

Read Finish Date: January 23, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “Founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Chic Media, Rachel Hollis has created an online fan base of hundreds of thousands of fans by sharing tips for living a better life while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own. Now comes her highly anticipated first book featuring her signature combination of honesty, humor, and direct, no-nonsense advice.

Each chapter of Girl, Wash Your Face begins with a specific lie Hollis once believed that left her feeling overwhelmed, unworthy, or ready to give up. As a working mother, a former foster parent, and a woman who has dealt with insecurities about her body and relationships, she speaks with the insight and kindness of a BFF, helping women unpack the limiting mind-sets that destroy their self-confidence and keep them from moving forward.

From her temporary obsession with marrying Matt Damon to a daydream involving hypnotic iguanas to her son’s request that she buy a necklace to “be like the other moms,” Hollis holds nothing back. With unflinching faith and tenacity, Hollis spurs other women to live with passion and hustle and to awaken their slumbering goals.”

My Review: I’m having a really hard time writing a review about this book because I really do not know how I feel about it. I didn’t love it, and I didn’t hate it. It paled in comparison to the other memoirs I read this year so far (Educated and The Year of Less), but it was also entertaining. Sometimes I could not relate to the author (e.g. she is a Christian and talks openly about God, and I am not religious). Other times, I did relate to what she was saying, and I generally liked her “you go girl” attitude.

This book is by far not my favorite, but a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Educated by Tara Westover

35133922Title: Educated

Author: Tara Westover

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 10 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Autobiography

Read Start Date: January 9, 2019

Read Finish Date: January 14, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

My Review: I really liked this book, as disturbing as it was. I would go further to say that this is a must-read for 2019. The writing is great, and it reads truly like fiction, even though, alarmingly, it is not. I read (listened) to this book in only a few days, as it is honestly hard to put down. Educated is the true story of the author’s childhood growing up in a fundamentalist Mormon family in rural Idaho. It is a revealing story, which looks into the hard truth of Westover’s upbringing, and the author’s portrayal of her family and herself is at times scathing and highly critical.

The story parallels the fiction book The Great Alone in so many ways. In both stories, the protagonist grows up in the shadow of her overbearing, paranoid father. Westover’s mother is, like I imagine most women are in abusive relationships, meek and diminutive, bending to the whims of her husband, no matter how ridiculous or crazy. This is also true in the The Great Alone. Both fathers suffer from some form of mental illness, in The Great Alone it is PTSD, and in Educated, the author’s father is (undiagnosed) bipolar. Being conservative / fundamentalist mormon adds another layer to the complications of living with such a man, as Westover’s father becomes a prophet of sorts for his harshly conservative brand of Mormonism. His “testimonies” are the bedrock of the family ethos and are not to be questioned.

I have some spoilers below, so read on with caution.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Educated by Tara Westover”

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a StoreThis book is a self-help memoir written (and with respect to the Audiobook, read) by the author, Cait Flanders. In The Year of Less Flanders tells the story of her road to a healthier, clutter free, fiscally smarter life. At the time when Flanders decided to have a “year of less”, she was an alcoholic, shopaholic, and $30,000 in debt as a result of her addictions.

Flanders had her own blog during her “year of less” called “Blonde on a Budget“, where she posted about the trial and tribulations of her experiment. At the beginning of the book, Flanders says that the book is not just a compilation of her blog posts, but rather is about personal stories she had never shared before.

These stories are about not only her struggles with the “shopping ban”, but also about the recovery process from her addictions, and general stories from her life.

Even if you cannot relate to the author’s addictive tendencies (I could not as an example), this book is an inspiring story about the struggles of adopting a minimalist lifestyle in a consumer driven society.

This book is only about a 5-6 hour read (on Audiobook) and is definetely worth reading this year.

Check out this book on Goodreads: The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35488858-the-year-of-less

BOOK REVIEW: Sugar: My Life as a Sugar Babe by Monique X

40667863Title: Sugar: My Life as a Sugar Babe

Author: Monique X

Book Length: 328 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Erotica, Autobiography, Memoir, Romance

Read Start Date: October 28, 2018

Read Finish Date: November 5, 2018

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: After her divorce, Monique decides to inject some fun into the drudgery of life as a single mother, by dating a wealthy older gentleman, which is known as ‘sugar daddy’ dating. It all starts quite innocently, but when Monique finds a thousand pounds in her wallet after one night of hot, steamy sex, she realises that sugar dating could be her way to survive as a single mother.

Soon life is a whirlwind of wealthy men, luxury hotels and glamorous experiences. She goes skydiving in Dubai and flies to Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, Milan, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Thanks to her sugar daddies Monique can take care of her children, she gets a new sense of independence, discovers her sexual drive, and experiments with a whole new range of sexual fantasies.

But when she loses her job and her ex-husband stops paying alimony, she is prepared to do anything to safeguard her children and keep a roof over their heads. Money becomes her main focus and she starts living on the periphery of the escort world. Now she realises the truth: she needs to find a way out.

My Review: I received an advance copy of this book via Netgalley.  As with all books that I read, I went to Goodreads to mark that I was “currently reading” the book.

However, the cover of “Sugar” by Monique X, is basically exactly the same as “Sugar Daddy” by Sawyer Bennett.  So, that’s super confusing.  Are these by the same person?  Or did one copy the cover art of the other??  I have included both covers for comparison.

Anyway, this book (told as a memoir) is about a single mom raising two kids after her divorce from her deadbeat husband.  In order to make ends-meat, the main character “Monique” joins a sugar daddy dating site called “Seeking Arrangements”.  Basically, a “Sugar Babe” is a woman who receives money from older, wealthy (sometimes married) “Sugar Daddies”.  In general, from what I understand, a Sugar Babe is like a kept mistress who gets a monthly allowance, and in return,  accompanies the guys on fancy dinners, trips abroad, and of course, engages in very illicit sexual activities.

Sugar Daddy (Sugar Bowl, #1)

As the author says: “what all men really want: a lady on their arm and a hooker in their bed.”

I haven’t really read many erotica books, except for maybe 50 Shades of Grey 1-3, and like 50 Shades of Grey, this Sugar story is more interesting than the writing is good.  But, as Stephen King says, a book is about the story, and not the writing technique — and this story is fast paced, entertaining, adventurous, and full of very sexually graphic scenes (which are exciting).  The men Monique met were fun and exotic and took her around the globe on world-wind adventurous filled with fine dining, high priced wine / cocktails, and mind blowing sex.

If you have ever fantasized about what it could be like to live dangerously or on the edge, this book will definitely intrigue you.

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.”