Talking with Psychopaths and Savages by Christopher Berry-Dee

32713413Title: Talking with Psychopaths and Savages

Author: Christopher Berry-Dee

Book Length: 292 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Psychology, True Crime

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: Criminologist Christopher Berry-Dee goes deep inside the mind of the world’s most sick ,sadistic and predatory people alive. The author introduces the book as follows “Welcome to ‘Christopher World’, with a gilt-edged invitation to take you on a journey for, dare I say that I am your ‘tour guide’ on a road trip into the deeply disturbing and darkest recesses, the abyss of the minds of psychopaths and savages, because now that you are reading this book, you are coming with me, like it or not!” The author discussed the differences between “psychopath” and “savage”, fleshing out his thesis using 9 “case studies” on some of the most vile and violent people on Earth.

My Review: Although I found the crime details thoroughly disturbing, there is also something surreal, and therefore fascinating (all be it in a negative way), about people who kill without empathy or remorse. I have a hard time killing a spider, so I cannot even imagine how someone can be capable of killing another human being, and then acting like it was nothing. The concept of harming another person is completely alien to me, and somehow, because of this, I was able to disassociate a bit from the narrative, and see it more as a story rather than the facts of a real life crime. To not disassociate, would have certainly led to agoraphobia. These psyhopaths are outwardly just ‘normal’ people…they could be anyone!

This book dives into what makes these people tick — what drives them to kill. “And what motivates the psychopath is the desire to take what he, or she, wants regardless of the consequences. He is insensitive to all but his own needs; his inability to recognise the needs or rights of others means that he sweeps them casually aside or simply uses them for his own ends.”

In telling the story of John Cannan, a British robber, serial rapist and murderer, the author paints the following horrifying picture “The dark hair is well groomed…He is dressed immaculately…His voice is soft, almost upper-class…Confident, he is seemingly a worldly person who could almost certainly hold his own in any company…So far so good, for there is nothing to worry about in what you see in John, is there? But ‘Buyer Beware’, because what he portrays is a mask , when everything behind it can be demonstrably monstrous. He is like a fake Rolex watch — all shiny and false — then, when you rewind it, the spring breaks, and savagery is released.”

Shiver. Puts a whole new perspective on internet dating, doesn’t it?

If you like to read true crime novels, or just like to be plain scared, then this book is for you.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Calypso by David Sedaris

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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

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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

Becoming

Book Length (Audiobook): 19 hours 10 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Links: Goodreads and Amazon

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”

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

The Goodreads’ synopsis (link below) of this book says as follows.

“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.”

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to BeI’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.

Check out this book on Goodreads: Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35542451-girl-wash-your-face

Educated by Tara Westover

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.

EducatedThe 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 “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

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

I first heard about a person named James Comey when President Trump fired him from his job as FBI Director for his failure to agree to be “loyal” to Trump. Famously, he agreed to be “loyally honest” in some sort of weird compromise. From Austria, I watched Comey’s hearing testimony before Congress with great interest. Many blamed him for Hilary Clinton’s defeat.

When I learned that he had written a book, I was intrigued to see his perspective on the controversial Presidency and Hilary email scandal. Although most of the book was about Comey’s career before Trump became president, Comey did have this to say about Trump:

“Donald Trump’s Presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation. We all bear responsibility for the deeply flawed choices put before voters during the 2016 election and our country is paying a high price. This President is unethical and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty. We are fortunate some ethical leaders have chosen to serve and to stay at senior levels of government, but they cannot prevent all the damage from the forest fire that is the Trump presidency. Their task is to try to contain it.”

Continue reading “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey”

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Michelle McNamara hit a home run with this true-crime book about her obessive search to find the serial rapist and murderer who she dubbed the Golden State Killer.  This book tells the story of her search for the elusive killer.  McNamara passed away 2 years before her book could be published — and the book was finished after her death by her husband, American actor Patton Oswalt, with the help of writers.

Ill be gone

This brilliantly told story of the serial rapist and murderer, who is believed to have committed over 45 rapes and 12 murders,  is more disturbing then any slasher film — because it is real — it really happened.

If you read any true crime book this year, make sure it is this one.

Check out this book on Goodreads: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35068432-i-ll-be-gone-in-the-dark

The Killing Game: The True Story of Rodney Alcala the Game Show Serial Killer

Rodney Alcala, born in 1943 in San Antonio, Texas, is believed to have raped and murdered around 130 people. Alcala committed his first known crime (rape of an 8 year old girl) in 1968, at the age of 25 while a student at UCLA.  Due to the unavailability of the witness (she had moved back to Mexico with her family), Alcala was given a sentance of only 1 year to life, and released on parole after 34 months.

That was just the beginning of the horrific crimes of torture, rape, and murder that Alcala would commit during his lifetime.

I am giving the book 3 stars out of 5, as I neither really liked, nor really disliked it.

While I usually enjoy a true crime story, I found that this book while being extremely detailed and obviously well researched, lacked the human element — both in the telling of the background story of the killer himself, and also in the telling of the story of the victims.  I felt like I was reading some legal document, which was spelling out the facts of the case to a judge, rather than a novel.

Check out this book on Goodreads: The Killing Game: The True Story of Rodney Alcala the Game Show Serial kIller http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36610960-the-killing-game

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.”