BOOK REVIEW: American Mother by Gregg Olsen

Title: American Mother: The True Story of a Troubled Family, Motherhood, and the Cyanide Murders that Shook the World

Author: Gregg Olsen

Audiobook Length: 14 hours and 7 minutes. Book length: 496 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Read Start Date: November 10, 2022

Read Finish Date: November 14, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: At 5.02 pm on June 5, 1986, an emergency call came into the local sheriff’s office in the small town of Auburn, Washington State. A distressed housewife, Stella Nickell, said her husband Bruce was having a seizure. Officers rushed to the Nickell’s mobile home, to find Stella standing frozen at the door… Bruce was on the floor fighting for his life.  
 
As Stella became the beneficiary of over $175,000 in a life insurance pay-out, forensics discovered that Bruce had consumed painkillers laced with cyanide.
 
A week later, fifteen-year-old Hayley was getting ready for another school day. Her mom, Sue, called out ‘I love you’ before heading into the bathroom and moments later collapsed on the floor. Sue never regained consciousness, and the autopsy revealed she had been poisoned by cyanide tainted headache pills. Just like Bruce.
 
While a daughter grieved the sudden and devastating loss of her mother, a young woman, Cindy, was thinking about her own mom Stella. She thought about the years of neglect and abuse, the tangled web of secrets Stella had shared with her, and Cindy contemplated turning her mom into the FBI…
 
Gripping and heart-breaking, Gregg Olsen uncovers the shocking true story of a troubled family. He delves into a complex mother-daughter relationship rooted in mistrust and deception, and the journey of the sweet curly-haired little girl from Oregon whose fierce ambition to live the American Dream led her to make the ultimate betrayal.    
 
Originally published as Bitter Almonds. Revised and updated edition.

My Review: I received this book as an audiobook and ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. With respect to the different formats:

Audiobook: The audiobook was great. I also really liked the interview with the author that was included in the end.

Ebook: The ebook was also great. It was easy to read and it was organized well.

With respect to the story itself, American Mother is the true crime story of a woman, Stella Nickell, who murdered her husband Bruce by giving him Excedrin capsules filled with cyanide. The medical examiner initially stated that the cause of death was emphysema. Stella was free and clear of the murder — that is — until she became greedy. You see, if the death was accidental, then Stella would get a bigger payout from the life insurance.

Sickly inspired by the “tylenol murders”, which was a series of poisoning deaths resulting from drug tampering in the Chicago metropolitan area in 1982, Stella formulated a plan: she would contaminate Excedrin bottles with cyanide filled capsules and put them on the shelves at drug stores. Then, when someone else took them and died, it would be seen as another “drug tampering” case, and Bruce’s death would be ruled an accident. This plot is sick and twisted, and Stella almost got away with it. Who would think that someone would be so callous as to murder complete strangers to cover up the murder of her husband?

A short while after Stella put the bottles on the shelves, a woman named Sue took those cyanide pills and died. This time the medical examiner found the cyanide in her system. After Sue’s death hit the news, Stella started calling authorities stating her belief that her husband had also taken contaminated pills. It was found to be true.

Essentially, what it boils down to, is that Stella murdered Sue so that Bruce’s death would be ruled an accident and Stella could get more money. What a heartless piece of garbage!

Gregg Olsen tells the story of not only the murder and the victim, Sue, but also the background on the Nickell family. While I’m not a big fan of focusing on the killer (because the focus should be on the victim instead), it was important to see Stella’s family dynamics, as there was some speculation, although never proven, that Stella’s daughter was in on the plot as well.

I really like how Olsen told the story — it wasn’t dry like some true crime books, and it held my interest. There was some repetition of the facts when Olsen wrote about the trial (and honestly this was my least favorite part), but on the other hand it really drove home the point that Stella was a heartless monster who killed 2 people for the money.

If you like true crime, I would definitely recommend this book.

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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: A Haunted History of Invisible Women by Leanna Renee Hieber and Andrea Janes

60098288._SY475_Title: A Haunted History of Invisible Women: True Stories of America’s Ghosts

Author: Leanna Renee Hieber and Andrea Janes

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 44 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Paranormal, Horror, True Crime

Read Start Date: September 25, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 27, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the notorious Lizzie Bordento the innumerable, haunted rooms ofSarah Winchester‘s mysterious mansionthis offbeat, insightful, first-ever book of its kind explores the history behind America’s female ghosts, the stereotypes, myths, and paranormal tales that swirl around them, what their stories reveal about us–and why they haunt us…

Sorrowful widows, vengeful jezebels, innocent maidens, wronged lovers, former slaves, even the occasional axe-murderess–America’s female ghosts differ widely in background, class, and circumstance. Yet one thing unites them: their ability to instill fascination and fear, long after their deaths. Here are the full stories behind some of the best-known among them, as well as the lesser-known–though no less powerful.

Tales whispered in darkness often divulge more about the teller than the subject. America’s most famous female ghosts, like New Orleans voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, and Bridget Bishop, the first person executed during the Salem witchcraft trials, mirror each era’s fears and prejudices. Yet through urban legends and campfire stories, even ghosts like the nameless hard-working women lost in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire –achieve a measure of power and agency in death, in ways unavailable to them as living women.

Riveting for skeptics and believers alike, with humor, curiosity, and expertise, A Haunted History of Invisible Women offers a unique lens on the significant role these ghostly legends play both within the spook-seeking corners of our minds and in the consciousness of a nation.

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

I thought this book was well done, but I found it to be more informational than scary. Despite the “horror” classification on Goodreads, I personally do not think that this book fits into that genre. The authors told the tales of female ghosts, but in the context of how women were / are societally perceived, and how this perception spawned such ghost stories. So, for me, it was more a book about the history of ghosts and the societal reasons why ghost stories are created, rather than a compilation of ghost stories.

I hadn’t ever thought to much into how ghost stories came about. It was very interesting to get the authors’ take based upon the historical evidence.

As of the writing of this review this book has about a 3.8 average rating on Goodreads, with about 111 ratings overall. Honestly, this is surprising to me and seems a bit unfair. Most of the lower ratings are from people who say the book is to “feminist” for them, or rag on the authors for not collecting interviews from people who have seen these ghosts, or for not sharing their own personal ghost stories. But I don’t think this was the point of the book. This book wasn’t about the stories themselves per se, but how these ghost stories were formed and how said stories have shaped society in the retelling. It is an interesting and unique perspective to these ghost stories, one which I had never read before.

Therefore, I would recommend this book, especially for those people who like history and ghosts.

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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: No Lawyers in Heaven by Henry Milner

56033836._SY475_Title: No Lawyers in Heaven: A Life Defending Serious Crime

Author: Henry Milner

Audiobook Length:  6 hours and 43 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime, Autobiography, Memoir

Read Start Date: August 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 17, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Netgally (link to Goodreads): The life of a criminal defence lawyer is shrouded in mystery. Outsiders might wonder about how to deal with potentially dangerous clients; what happens behind the scenes when building a defence; and, that age-old moral dilemma, how a lawyer can defend someone they think is guilty. But what is life really like for those tasked with representing the shadowy underbelly of society?

For over forty years, criminal defence solicitor Henry Milner has been the go-to lawyer for some of Britain’s most notorious criminals including Kenneth Noye and the Brink’s-Mat robbers, Freddie Foreman, John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer and the gang behind the Millennium Dome raid.

Here, the lawyer referred to in the Sunday Times as ‘The Mr Big of Criminal Briefs’ offers a fascinating insight into life at the top of the profession, lifting the lid on the psychology of those who end up on the wrong side of the law and those who defend them. By turns shocking and hilarious, this remarkable memoir takes us deep into the enigmatic criminal underworld, delivering a wry personal commentary on the most extraordinary aspects of a life spent amongst the accused.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I have to say, from the very beginning of this book I just loved it.

In 1967 the author, Henry Milner is in the College of Estate Management when he is essentially told by the school that he is not very good (as he had come at the bottom of his building construction class twice because he “can’t draw”), and that he should think instead of becoming a lawyer, as he had excelled in legal classes such as property law. And so he did.

Milner eventually becomes a defense attorney and he tells the stories of when he was practicing in the 70s and 80s. The stories are told with wit and humor and at times had me laughing out loud. His clients, some guilty, some acquitted are characters unto themselves. Even though they are criminals, many of their antics were funny (maybe not haha funny, but at least shake your head in astonishment funny).

I had never heard of these cases because they were before my time, and also this takes place in England and not America.

I also really liked the narrator. He told the stories in an animated way, like you were at a party, engaged in a conversation with him and he was regaling you of that one time when he represented this guy…

The crimes that are discussed are not heinous in nature, mostly robberies, and so I didn’t feel drained by reading this book like with some true crime books about murder.

All in all, I highly recommend this book.

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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: Toxic Rage: A Tale of Murder in Tucson by A.J. Flick

41562444Title: Toxic Rage: A Tale of Murder in Tucson

Author: A.J. Flick

Book Length: 303 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Read Start Date: April 29, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 11, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Brian Stidham fell in love with Tucson, Ariz., the minute he came to town. A young and talented eye surgeon, he accepted a job with an established eye surgeon to take over his pediatric patients.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Stidham told a friend. “I can live right there by the mountains and go hiking. It’s a great deal for me there. The partner I’ll be working with is ultracool. He’s giving me the keys to the kingdom.”

Brad Schwartz, the doctor who hired Brian, was ambitious and possessed surgical skills few others had. But he was a troubled man.

Within a year of Stidham’s arrival in Tucson, the medical relationship would be severed by Schwartz’s personal troubles. Stidham broke away to start his own practice. Rumors abounded within the medical community that Schwartz was incensed and considered the departure a betrayal. His rage grew, even driving a wedge between him and his fiancée, Lourdes Lopez, a former prosecutor.

Three years after Stidham moved to Tucson, his life ended in an empty, darkened parking lot. But who would murder such a nice man in such a violent manner? Lourdes, who had witnessed Schwartz’s toxic rage toward his former partner, feared she knew. But would her suspicions be enough to catch the killer? Find out in TOXIC RAGE.

My Review: I received this book several years ago from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I stopped reviewing books when the pandemic started for some reason, and am just going back now to read what I didn’t before. I’m a true crime junky, so I was excited to read this book about a case I had never heard about.

Brian Stidham was hired by Brad Schwartz to be another doctor is Schwartz’s ever growing practice. Although a successful doctor, Schwartz was plagued with troubles, eventually leading him to become an addict. While in rehab, Stidham leaves Schwartz’s practice to start one of his own, igniting a fury in Schwartz which eventually leads to Stidham’s murder.

The Goodreads synopsis of this book is a little misleading. The hook of the synopsis: “Lourdes, who had witnessed Schwartz’s toxic rage toward his former partner, feared she knew. But would her suspicions be enough to catch the killer? Find out in TOXIC RAGE,” makes it sound like Lourdes is the focus of the book and we follow her story as she tries to uncover the killer. This isn’t what happens at all. Lourdes is actually a very small part of the story. And actually, it was pretty obvious that Schwartz was the killer from the beginning.

While I liked this book, I felt that there was a lot of repetition. For example, Schwartz went around telling anyone he spoke to that he wanted Stidham dead. He even asked several people if they could kill him, or if not, knew anyone that could. We heard from each of these people. This got a little mundane and at points I found it hard to get through. It would have been more powerful if we had heard the details about one or two of the most shocking stories, and then the author could have lumped the rest into a brief paragraph or two.

Despite the above, I did find the book to be very interesting. Even though the book makes it very obvious from the beginning that Schwartz was the killer, the book still explores the other possibilities the police looked into. I thought it was good that the author wrote what actually happened rather than have an opinion as to what happened. The book seemed well researched and included information about interviews and court proceedings.

While I would recommend this book, it wasn’t my favorite true crime story.

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: 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: 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.

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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:Sonny: The Last of the Old Time Mafia Bosses, John “Sonny” Franzese by S.J. Peddie

58914879._SY475_Title: Sonny: The Last of the Old Time Mafia Bosses, John “Sonny” Franzese

Author: S.J. Peddie

Audiobook Length: 8 hours 22 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Read Start Date: March 26, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 27, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Based on exclusive interviews before his death in 2020 at age 103, SONNY is the first and only authorized biography of legendary mob boss John “Sonny” Franzese, the head of the Columbo crime family and financier of the infamous film Deep Throat. An old school Mafioso, he kept silent on his nine decade career in organized crime, remaining loyal to the Mafia oath throughout 30 years in prison, until he finally agreed to talk to award-winning Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie for this groundbreaking, never-before-revealed account.

John “Sonny” Franzese reportedly committed his first murder at the age of fourteen. As a “made man” for the Colombo crime family, he operated out of his Long Island home specializing in racketeering, fraud, loansharking, and other illicit deeds he would deny to his dying day. His career in organized crime spanned over eight decades–and was sentenced to fifty years in prison for robbery charges. But even behind bars, Sonny Franzese never stopped doing business…

This is the true story of an old-school Mafioso as it’s never been told before. Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie interviewed Franzese in prison–and uncovered a lifetime of shocking secrets from the legend himself:

* How Sonny became friends with celebrities Frank Sinatra Jr., Rocky Graziano, and Sammy Davis Jr.
* Why FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had a very personal interest in Sonny.
* How Sonny managed to juggle numerous affairs with women, including a famous model.
* How Sonny spent a third of his life in prison–and still managed to earn untold millions for the mob.
* How Sonny accidentally revealed some of his worst crimes–to a “friend” wearing a wire.

Through it all, Franzese refused to break the Mafia’s code of silence. Authorities believe he may have murdered, or ordered the murders of, forty to fifty people. Yet he earned a grudging respect from law enforcement and an absolute reverence from his fellow gangsters. Eventually he managed to outlive them all–until his death in 2020 of natural causes, a rare event in the Mafia. Thanks to a series of exclusive first-hand interviews with Newsday reporter S.J. Peddie, the astonishing life story of John “Sonny” Franzese can be told in all its bold, brutal, and blood-spattered glory. This is a must-read for anyone fascinated with Mafia history–and a rare look inside a criminal mind that has become the stuff of legend.

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

Wow what a story! This fascinating read kept me enraptured from beginning to end. I had no idea that there was an OG living until 103 (he died in 2020). Although he led a life of violence and crime (no one knows how many people he killed or ordered to be killed, although its probably a few dozen), John “Sonny” Franzese outlived most of the people in his life – including those who put him away. Despite being violent, Sonny had a very interesting life!

This book reads like it should be fiction, but it’s a true story! Yikes. I felt like I was reading something inspired by The Godfather, although in truth it was probably the other way around.

The way the author wrote this book was fantastic. This guy is a bad guy sometimes almost unabashedly so – I think we can all agree– but on the other hand, he is still a person, and the author gave Sonny a human quality. I even found myself chuckling a few times at what Sonny was saying, and even feeling kind of bad for him. One son (who was not his biologically, but his stepson who he adopted as his own) ran away into witness protection. Another son, a drug addict, snitched. In one poignant scene (paraphrasing), John (the snitch) was called into see the bosses and Sonny tells him – You can go and see them, and they might kill you. You don’t go and see them, they definitely will kill you. That’s how it was in Sonny’s life. You stick to the Mafia code, or they ice you. Sonny, despite his many trials and jail stints never once snitched. It must have felt like the greatest betrayal to have his sons do so.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you are into mafia movies.

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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:Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

29496076Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Author: David Grann

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 11 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

Read Start Date: July 8, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 13, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

My Review: I had never heard of this story before, but I guess at some point I must have put it on hold at the library. I was really shocked to read what happened to the Native Americans at the early part of the 1900’s. The Osage Indians were put onto a reservation by the US government in Oklahoma. Luckily, or maybe unluckily, for the Osage people, their reservation was rich with oil deposits. The Osage themselves became rich, and of course, non-Native Americans became jealous.

Thus began another exploitation of the Native American.

This book was really good, but also really sad — another shameful event in a list of shameful events. I watch a lot of true crime shows, and read a lot of true crime novels, but it never ceases to amaze me how greedy people can be — how people would be willing to kill someone, or multiple people, over money. Don’t  get me wrong, I would prefer to have money than not have money, but I’m not about to take someone’s life to get it.

The writing (narrated by the author) was good, and although the subject matter was not dry, the author really brought the reader into the story, and made the story engaging.

If you are into history, this is definitely worth the time to read.

 

TV SHOW REVIEW: Girls Incarcerated, Season 1

MV5BNzQ0MTA2YTgtNTE2YS00NDg2LTk0NDYtMWQ2MGYyNzEyYzgzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTMxODk2OTU@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_Title: Girls Incarcerated: Young and Locked Up

Year: 2018

Genre: Documentary

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: July 3, 2019 to July 5, 2019

Brief Summary of Plot from IMDb: A documentary show about troubled girls who are are juvenile delinquents in Madison Juvenile Center

Episode Name Episode # Date Watched
Chapter 1: The Girls of Madison 1 3-Jul-19
Chapter 2: Until We Meet Again 2 3-Jul-19
Chapter 3: Mean Girls 3 3-Jul-19
Chapter 4: Where the Story Begins 4 4-Jul-19
Chapter 5: Love in Lockup 5 4-Jul-19
Chapter 6: High Expectations 6 5-Jul-19
Chapter 7: My Life Story 7 5-Jul-19
Chapter 8: Moving Mountains 8 5-Jul-19

My Review: In the first episode we meet the girls of Madison, a juvenile detention center in Indiana. They are not sentenced to serve a particular time, but are rather sentenced to complete a program, which includes high school classes. Each girl is different, but seems to come from the same background: broken homes, addicted or incarcerated parents, no fathers, etc. Due to their abandonment issues, parents who aren’t around or on drugs, etc. these girls lash out in anger, because they are really hurting inside.

Some of these girls are actually really smart — they just have walked down the wrong path.

As I continued to watch the show, I started to feel really bad for these girls, and listening to the stories of physical, mental, and sexual abuse some of these girls have gone through in their short lives really broke my heart.

My sister lives in Indiana, about 30 minutes north of Indianapolis. I did not realize that Indianapolis was the 10th most dangerous city in the entire US. These girl had to grow up and survive in a really dangerous place, and often, when they are released, they go right back into their old environments.

This documentary is really well done and really brings another perspective to the life of being a juvenile delinquent. These girls do not do drugs, commit crimes, etc., because they like it, but they are doing it because they are deeply hurting and do not know how to handle their emotions, so they lash out and do destructive things.

If you are a fan of prison shows / documentaries, I would recommend this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Murder on the Orient Express

iBlfxlw8qwtUS0R8YjIU7JtM6LM-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Murder on the Orient Express

Year: 2017

Genre: Mystery, Drama, Crime

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 114 minutes

Platform: Lufthansa

Date Watched: June 24, 2019

Recognized Actors: This movie has a star studded cast, which includes Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdEVERYONE IS A SUSPECT. Genius Belgian detective Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of an American tycoon aboard the Orient Express train.

My Review: This movie is based on the book by Agatha Christie. I have never read the book though, so I can’t make any comments on the comparison between the two. Poirot is like the Belgian version of Sherlock Holmes, finding clues in the most innocent / ordinary of details. As the title of the movie suggests, there was a murder on the Orient Express (Johnny Depp), and Poirot (who is supposedly the greatest detective in the world), must figure out who did it.

I watched this movie on the plane back to the States from Austria and it kept my attention. This movie is smart, and very well done and I would definitely recommend to watch it.