TV SHOW REVIEW: Jailbirds, Season 1

MV5BMGEyYjNlYzUtMWU2MC00ZjNkLWJlZTMtM2YxZTZmZjQyM2JiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTMxODk2OTU@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_Title: Jailbirds

Year: 2019

Genre: Reality TV, True Crime

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 11, 2019 to May 12, 2019

Brief Summary of Plot from IMDbAt the Sacramento County Jail, incarcerated women fight the power and one another as they try to make the best of life – and love – on the inside.

Episode Name Episode # Date Watched
Dressed into Orange 1 11-May-19
Ima Be That Phatt B*tch 2 11-May-19
We’re All Criminals 3 12-May-19
Swimmin’ in Sh*t, Bruh! 4 12-May-19
It’s a Crazy Beautiful Kinda Love 5 12-May-19
She Swung at Me, I Swung Back 6 12-May-19

My Review: In the first episode we meet several women incarcerated at the jail. Probably my favorite line of the entire first episode is when Gaylon Beason, a 36 year old woman who is a convicted armed robber with two strikes, arrested for violating her parole, stated that she was excited to be finishing up her 90 days in jail, so that she could use the bathroom without having people around her and it “smelling like booboo”. I mean, I guess I can understand. Who doesn’t want some privacy when they go “booboo”? Ms. Beason later goes on to say that she flirts with the other women in the jail, but she is married so she is going to keep “her spit in her mouth and her hands to herself.” Wow. That’s so nice of her!

I do not know why I am so fascinated with these types of shows, but I am basically addicted. It is interesting, yet somehow also disturbing, to listen to how these criminals think. Most are not remorseful, and talk about their crimes like I would talk about how I went shopping or got my hair cut. They seem thrilled to be on camera telling their stories, and most hold nothing back, even if it could influence their court case.

I am also fascinated by the tattoos that the prisoners have. Most of the time while they are in prison, they get even more. Megan Hawkins (a.k.a. “Monster”), arrested for grand theft auto and transportation of narcotics, used to run a successful tattoo business back in New York, that is before she was arrested for selling drugs. She did three months in jail back in New York, before moving to California to change her life around. Unfortunately for her, she started dating a real winner (not), and they both (!) ended back in jail on domestic abuse charges. She claims to have tattoos over 50% of her body. Her ex was on the show also (he was in jail for the same incident).

I always wonder what possesses a person to get such a tattoo? As much as tattoos are considered art, it is still the harsh reality that people with such noticeable tattoos are kept out of the conventional job market. The most noticeable tattoo is the one on her face, over her left eyebrow, which says “Monster”. Her ex, “A1” also had several tattoos on his face. I just don’t get it.

I am often saddened by how normal these women seem; how they have real life dreams, but then mess it up for themselves by turning to a life of crime. Najla Jones (“Noonie”), a self proclaimed “nice ass real bitch”, thinks of Megan Hawkins, as the “lighter to her cigarette”. Nice imagery, right? She was arrested for pimping and pandering, and has a $1,000,000 bail, which of course she cannot afford. As of the filming, she spent more than one year in jail. Noonie grew up in the foster care system, but has dreams of becoming a social worker when she gets out of jail.  Sadly, this dream is probably out of reach for her now that she has a record.

This show also introduces us to male inmates (not just female ones). During the first season the male and female inmates form relationships with each other (often developing messy love triangles), by talking and sending long love letters to each other through the toilet. Yes, you have read correctly. They use the toilets like telephones and the postal service. See, the jail is 8 stories high, and the plumbing is all connected. The inmates can “bail” out their toilets (remove all the water) and then talk into the toilet. I mean, they put their whole face inside that nasty bowl and confess their love through the drains. Gross. To send messages they make lines out of t-shirts, which gets snagged together when they simultaneously flush the toilets. Then one prisoner pulls the line and out comes a plastic baggie with the letter inside. If the prisoners put as much effort into staying out of trouble as they do thinking about how to talk through toilets, there would be no more crime!

I don’t mean to trivialize the plight of these inmates, because let’s face it, jail is no joke, but sometime I can’t help but to think, “whaaaat?” I don’t want to spoil any of these crazy moments, so I will just say, that if you are like me and like true crime and reality TV, then this show is for you and you should totally watch it! Since there are only 6 episodes it’s easy to binge watch it in a weekend, or even in one day.

Happy Watching!

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

389637-extremely-wicked-shockingly-evil-and-vile-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Year: 2019

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 1 hours 50 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 4, 2019

Recognized Actors: Zac Efron plays the infamous Ted Bundy. Efron’s performance in this movie is fantastic and I was very impressed. I have only ever seen Efron play the dumb jock, or other unserious roles. In this movie Efron breaks from his former characters and really shows that he has true potential as a versatile actor.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdTHE STORY BEHIND AMERICA’S MOST NOTORIOUS SERIAL KILLER. A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy, from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. A courtroom frenzy ensues and sweeps 1970s America when a young single mother reluctantly tips the attention of a widespread manhunt toward her longtime boyfriend, Ted Bundy.

My Review: My impression after the first 15 minutes of the movie: All around really good start to the movie! The scenes where Kloepfer meets and falls in love with Bundy were so well done that I forgot for just a moment that Bundy was one of the most prolific serial killers in recent times. The interplay of the scenes where Bundy is acting as a family man and the news reports of his heinous crimes is artfully done and spine chilling. At the end of the 15 minutes, the story begins to dive into the beginning of Bundy’s downfall; arrested for the kidnapping of a woman in Utah, Bundy arrives back in Seattle spinning a tall tale that he is being set up; and Kloepfer buys it…for the moment.

I am giving this movie 5 stars because it was just so well done. I watch a lot of true crime shows / movies, and this one is on par with Monster, the movie about America’s first female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos  (played by Charlize Theron). The thing that I like about this movie, is that it really portrayed Bundy in the way most people thought of him at the time. I could feel myself feeling sorry for him at some points…and then I remembered what he did. I really have to congratulate Zac Efron on a really good job. I have seen Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes on Netflix, and I think Efron portrayed Bundy down to the letter.

If you like true crime, and want to never trust a stranger again, you must watch this movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

35901186Title: The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Author: Kirk Wallace Johnson

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 9 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime, History, Science, Mystery

Read Start Date: April 10, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 11, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins–some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them–and escaped into the darkness.

Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist-high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man’s relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man’s destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.

My Review: When I first starting reading this book, I had no idea that it was actually nonfiction, and based upon real events. I had never heard of using bird feathers for fishing lures, nor had I ever heard of a “fly tier” enthusiast stealing exotic bird feathers from a museum — in some cases, the very same birds collected by Alfred Russel Wallace, and other naturalists of the same era (around the time of Darwin’s expeditions).

The writing of Kirk Wallace Johnson was so good, that I was convinced for the first portion of the book that it was a fiction story. After I got into it a bit further, and looked the book up online, I realized that this story is actually true! It seems to be a little known fact, which makes for an awesome and refreshing novel. The story is very engaging, and even though it is nonfiction, there is the distinct smell of a fiction thriller — a daring heist of rare, expensive bird skins leads an amateur detective into the bowels of the fly tier underground, where the secretive fly tier community not only trades in black market and sometimes illegal feathers, but closes ranks when threatened.

Did Edwin Rist work alone, or was there perhaps more at play?

I love that this book unwittingly educated me, not only in the not so known world of fly tying, but also the feather trade in general.

The book alternates between telling the story of the feather heist, and telling the story of the author trying to track down the thief. The author also explains about the history of feathers and fashion, and how during the Victorian age several species were almost hunted into extinction all in the name of women’s vanity and social stature.

This book gets a rare 5 out of 5 stars from me. Everyone should read about this strange little piece of history. Even if you don’t generally like nonfiction books, this book will not disappoint.

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

35068432Michelle McNamara hit a home run with this true-crime book about her obsessive 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.

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

BOOK REVIEW: The Killing Game: The True Story of Rodney Alcala the Game Show Serial Killer by Alan R. Warren

36610960Title: The Killing Game: The True Story of Rodney Alcala the Game Show Serial Killer

Author: Alan R. Warren

Book Length: 145 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime, Crime

Read Start Date: October 9, 2018

Read Finish Date: October 20, 2018

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1968 young girls went missing in California and New York, massive searches started and soon bodies became to turn up! This is the story of Rodney Alcala, the charming, good looking photographer that was in NYU studying under Roman Polanski and even once had won on the popular TV game show ” Dating Game” but now he is wanted for rape, torture and murder of several young girls! he would make the girls suffer until they passed out, then rape them, and when they came too , he would beat them again before killing them! Alan R. Warren best selling True Crime Author and Radio Show host takes you through each step of the story in shocking details including lots of details from the trials and the appeals that have been going on for over twenty years while Alcala is on Death Row!

My Review: 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 sentence 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.

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.”