For readers around the globe. :)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Murder, Interrupted

I've never been a huge James Patterson fan before, but his new true-crime thriller collection might be changing my mind! Murder, Interrupted has 2 true crime stories. These cases came directly from the show Murder is Forever, on the ID Channel. So let me break each story down for you.

Murder, Interrupted
Frank Howard is living not one, not two, but THREE different lives.
Yeah, you read that right.

#1 Takes place in Texas and includes his wife Nancy and their 3 adult children.

#2 Moves us to California with mistress Suzanne, who he claims he's going to be leaving his wife for.

#3 Introduces us to Mr. John, a character who is embezzling millions of dollars from a client, who is hell bent on killing his wife, and is a straight up sociopath.

So when Frank devises a plan on how to kill his wife, it involves a hit man. For years he fantasizes about how it should be done, but ultimately leaves it up to the guys he's hired to do it. The only problem is, he hired a group of well known meth heads who can't even get the job done. They worked up the courage to kill Nancy...but somehow a gunshot to the head DIDN'T KILL HER.

Nancy couldn't believe her husband had anything to do with her attempted murder. Their children couldn't imagine a world where there father was capable of something like this. After Frank was bonded out, he moved back into the house with Nancy (she is literally so much stronger than I would have been in this situation). After two years, he finally went to trial. With tons of testimony from Nancy, Suzanne, his children, ex-client, and the original hit man, the jury found Frank guilty after a mere two hours of deliberation.

Mother of All Murders
I'm sure you guys have all heard of Gypsy Rose and her mother Dee Dee.
  The news of Dee Dee's death and the disappearance of Gypsy Rose shocked their small Missouri town. They had joined together to create a life for this single mother and sick little girl. They welcomed them into their homes with open arms only to shockingly discover it was all a hoax.

Gypsy was never really sick, not in the least. But Dee Dee was suffering from Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy, which made the way she raised Gypsy incredibly diabolical. More or less, the idea was to commit fraud, tricking everyone, including Gypsy, into believing her daughter was suffering from a wide variety of illnesses. Illnesses as severe as leukemia, asthma, sleep apnea, muscular dystrophy, and even went as far to have Gypsy tube fed. The only problem was doctors were only finding symptoms, but nothing that showed the actual illnesses described.

But this was the only world Gypsy had ever known.
A life so paralyzing that she actually believed she was paralyzed!
When she began wanting to do normal things with kids her age, such as dating, Dee Dee shut it down almost immediately. Feeling trapped, Gypsy signed up on a Christian dating app and met Nicholas Godejohn. Through the subtle communication between Gypsy and her doctors, pastor, and friend Aleah, she began realizing her mother was feeding her lie after lie while barely feeding her real food at all.

Gypsy devised a plan, one that including Nicholas saving her from her mother.
A plan that would rid the world of Dee Dee and all of the pain she caused her.
She masterminded how a boy she had never met would kill her mother.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Table Between Us

I don't usually read a lot of poetry.
But I joined a few book related groups where people can share reviews, articles, and authors can share their work. Which is how I came across Kendricks Fields, an American author who currently lives in the same city as me, IN SOUTH KOREA. This fact alone made me want to read his work.

So The Table Between Us is a poetry book (can be found on Amazon). It's a quick read about love and heartbreak. But to me, personally it felt like young love. One of my favorite poems was X's and O's, which actually takes place on a school bus. Another one I liked was Intoxicated. It told such a vivid story, a story that most people can relate to. 

I think that's what I got out of this book; that young love can feel like the best thing in the world but it can also feel like the worst. It's the beginnings, the electricity, the excitement of starting a new relationship that makes the chase feel worth it. But once the realities of life start setting in, things begin to fade, to crumble, to inevitably end.

A Dog Named Beautiful

"I loved a dog with all my heart once."

That quote sums up this entire book.
I was 15 pages in and sobbing into my pup's fur about unconditional love.
I have never loved anything as much as I love my girl, Sophie.
We've been together almost 4 years now and I would give anything to keep her in my life forever.

Rob Kugler and his furbaby Bella set off on a 3-6 month road trip to soak up the time they had left together. It all happened right after Bella was diagnosed with cancer....in her lungs that spread to her leg. The best option to give her a little more time was to amputate her leg. That's right, Rob had a 3-legged pup with more gusto than any other dog he'd ever seen. I mean, sure he was out almost 2 grand, but it was worth it to spend some more time with his girl.

It's such a touching story about a man and his dog.
But for Rob, it was more than that. He was lost for a very long time but he found himself learning life lessons from Bella. He found himself through her. He spent countless days wondering if he was giving her the best life imaginable, especially with everyone asking him if her quality of life diminished after losing her leg. But honestly, it made her stronger. Which in turn made him stronger.

Everything in this book made me cry.
Everything in this book made me hug my dog.
Everything in this book was so relatable.

In January, we had a run in with our pup.
Sophie woke up and could barely stand. 
I carried her outside for her morning potty break and she got sick and just collapsed. 
I ran inside stressed, telling my husband to grab the keys. We needed a vet.
Mind you, we live in South Korea, with vets who barely spoke our language.
The first vet we could find said "Heart failure, emergency. Go to this vet for surgery, immediately." 
The next vet said, "Emergency surgery. Her uterus exploded."
They set to work on my baby while we sat in the waiting room, covered in poop and vomit, and just cried. Within the hour, we were told there was a 30% chance she would survive the surgery given her age (she's 10ish).

A week later, we got to take her home.
She made it.
Sure, we were out 2 grand, just like Rob...
But we knew our pup needed us and we jumped on the chance to help her. 


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Speak

It is insane to me that a book written 20 years ago is telling a story that happens in today's world.

We meet Melinda as she's starting high school and follow her to the end of her freshman year.
High school is hard, but it's even harder when everyone is against you. Yes, I know, this sounds like every other kid thinking the world hates them, but for Melinda is was kind of true. Everyone knew she called the cops and broke up their house party...they just didn't know why.
 
Melinda struggles, a lot. She skipped classes, she stayed quiet, she found herself wandering through the halls of life. But she finds her voice at the end, which is incredibly badass because not everyone gets that chance or has the courage to do what she did. She stands up to her attacker, her rapist, and makes sure everyone knows what happened.

It kind of breaks my heart that things like this are still happening 20 years later.
But it blows my mind how strong the Melinda's of this world are.
 
 I rarely use the word "groundbreaking" when describing books, but I'm definitely marking Speak as groundbreaking. Not only did it capture the teenage image of 1999 but of 2019, as well. This book is absolutely going to stand the test of time and I'm beyond glad that I had the opportunity to read it and pass it along to all the other kids who might be trying to cope with their own struggles.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

When you find yourself at a wedding, telling people you write obituaries for the paper.....you start wondering what you're actually doing with your life. For Avi Steinberg, that's exactly how he ended up applying for the prison librarian + creative writing teacher position.

I honestly think Avi wrote this book more for himself than for anyone else.
It felt like he kind of lost himself for awhile and needed a very drastic change of pace, which apparently meant walking up to the menacing door of "The Bay" in Boston for an interview he wasn't even sure he qualified for.

Throughout the book, we meet all sorts of people from all walks of life. Avi regularly spent his days with murderers, rapists, drug dealers, prostitutes and pimps. But to him, these were just his library patrons and students in class. He eventually realized that not all criminals are bad people and some of them he even looked at as friends. Sometimes it was hard to find the line between the two. Regardless, this book is filled with "kites" found around the library, life lessons he's learned from inmates, but most importantly what he found for himself. Honestly, I'm not sure what he discovered from working in prison. 

One of my dreams is to work with inmates, whether it be in a prison or a juvenile detention center...I want to be there. I want to help these people get their life back on track like Avi tried with Jessica, a mother who found her 18 year old son on the prison basketball court. How he helped Chudney find recipes for his fictional cooking show, Thug Sizzle. How he proofread and wrote a prologue to C.C. Too Sweet's book "Memoirs of a Pimp." I hope to make a change in inmate culture and life and give them someone from the system they can view without contempt, someone they can trust.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Out of Orange

You might know Cleary Wolters as Alex Vause in the hit Netflix series, Orange is the New Black or as Nora Jansen in Piper Kerman's book with the same name.

Personally, I enjoyed reading this book more than Orange is the New Black. Cleary's story is more personal than Piper's. She gets us into the deep into the African drug smuggling ring. She gives us details of how they were under the impression they were smuggling diamonds, which soon turned to heroin, which then turned to $50k sewn into suitcases. They never expected to be in so deep with a drug lord, yet here they were carrying loaded luggage through airports and living to tell the tale. 

Piper got involved when Cleary started crushing on her. She thought maybe, just maybe, Piper could be a stand in on one of their runs. They could start an international love affair with suitcases full of money. Which is exactly what they tried to do, before Piper realized she didn't want to be a part of that life. Cleary was already in way too deep to call it quits and head back to San Fran with her.

It details how they got into this business, how they got out, how they got caught, and how they made their prison time worthwhile. It deals with love, loss, and growth. Cleary never expected for this to be her life and she really never expected to turn on the tv one day and a blonde girl hop out of a van and say, "Hello. My name is Piper Chapman, and this is my story."  

Looking for Piper Kerman's book?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Imagine this scenario:
It's 1936, you live with your Pa in the Kentucky mountains; Troublesome Creek to be exact. But you're colored. Not white, not black, but...blue.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek follows the story of Cussy Mary, better known as Bluet. She one of the last surviving members of her bloodline. Many years ago, living deep in the mountainside, desperate family members made their own family... if you get what I'm saying.
Bluet and her Pa both have what appears to be blue skin. Which means they don't get the same treatment as the white folks in town, but instead have to follow the same rules as the other colored folks. They get looked at as sickly, disgusting, not quite human. It's a hard life, but that doesn't stop Cussy Mary and her pa from living and working with everyone else. 

Bluet becomes a Pack Librarian for Troublesome Creek.
Pack librarians became essential when people in poor areas and off the beaten track, wanted some reading materials. Newspapers, magazines, scrapbooks, you name it, Bluet had it in her satchel. She would ride miles upon miles a week to deliver books to her patrons. They all called her Book Woman. But some of them still had to open their minds to a colored bringing them reading material. But over the course of a year, they come to love her. School children, young mothers, uptight fathers, they all wait patiently to see what the Book Woman has brought for them this week.

I absolutely loved this book.
I made a promise to myself to start reading more historical fiction this year, and I'm beyond glad I picked this up. It's a unique story, that I'm fairly certain hasn't been told before!