Book Review ~ ESCAPE FROM MARIUPOL

Escape From Mariupol: A Survivor’s True Story

by Adoriana Marik with Anne K. Howard


SYNOPSIS – In early 2022, life in the port city of Mariupol, Ukraine was safe and predictable for Adoriana Marik. The 31-year-old tattoo artist loved walking her dog by the seaside and meeting friends at cafes and public gardens. But all that changed on February 24, 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation.”

Adoriana was forced to hide in a filthy network of basements and underground tunnels. For more than a month, under deafening round-the-clock bombardment, she huddled with little food or water, and no heat, surrounded by groans from the sick and the smell of death. She decided to escape.

ESCAPE FROM MARIUPOL: A Survivor’s True Story is the tale of her perilous journey to freedom, an incredible tale of a brave young woman’s indomitable will to survive. As told to award-winning author Anne K. Howard, the book is a must-read for those who appreciate tales of extraordinary courage.


MY THOUGHTS – An excellent story written with heart. Experience one Ukrainian woman’s journey from her normal life through the ravages of war as her city is bombed. She and her dog manage to survive and get out to the Czech Republic with other refugees. Eventually, she is sponsored to come to Connecticut with her dog Yola.



PUBLISHER – WildBlue Press – 191 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Dec 6th, 2022

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Anne K. Howard is a true crime author and a voracious true crime reader. As a practicing attorney, she is able to sift through large volumes of legal information and craft it into page-turning stories. Her book, “His Garden: Conversations with a Serial Killer” won the 2020 Independent Press Award, the Pencraft Literary Award for Best Non Fiction of 2018, and the 2019 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Award for Best True Crime. The book and interviews with Howard are featured in an episode of “21st Century Serial Killers,” airing on the Justice Network. She is featured on the EU reality show, “Trace of Evil,” airing on the CBS Reality Channel. “Crime Watch Daily” also interviewed Howard for a show about the New Britain Serial Murders that first aired in January 2018.


Anne K. Howard graduated with Distinction from McGill University, where she studied English Literature. She thereafter graduated with Deans Honors from University of Cincinnati College of Law. She lives in Connecticut with her husband of 30 years, three dogs and one cat. Her children are adults now and are happily living their own lives.

Book Review ARC ~ VANISHED IN VERMILLION

Vanished in Vermillion: The Real Story of Sout Dakota’s Most Infamous Cold Case

by Lou Raguse


SYNOPSIS – The result of hundreds of interviews, Vanished in Vermillion is a cold case story that flips the script on a typical investigation narrative, revealing the biggest law enforcement embarrassment in South Dakota history.

In May 1971, Pam Jackson and Sherri Miller were two seventeen-year-olds driving to an end-of-the-school-year party in a rundown Studebaker Lark when they seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. Police back then didn’t do enough to try and find them. Investigators thirty years later did too much. Two families endure decades of pain as they await answers of what happened to their girls. When a third family is pulled into the mystery, they quickly learn their nightmare is just beginning.


MY THOUGHTS – An interesting old true crime story about two 17 year old girls who went missing back in 1971 on their way to a party at a gravel pit. It details the story over 40+ years of issues with the case, and the surprising ending when it did come decades later. Good investigative journalism bringing out the real truth.



PUBLISHER – Post Hill Press – 224 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Feb 21st, 2023

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Lou Raguse is a journalist based in Minnesota specializing in crime and courts. Since 2005, he’s reported for local NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates in Minnesota, New York, Arizona, and South Dakota.

Early in his career, Raguse developed a niche for crime reporting and has covered national cases such as the murder of George Floyd and the resulting trials, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and the kidnapping and escape of thirteen-year-old Jayme Closs.

Besides countless regional Emmys and other broadcast news awards, Raguse produced an eight-part podcast on the Closs case, 88 Days: The Jayme Closs Story, which won an Edward R. Murrow award and was a top-ten performer on the iTunes podcast charts.

Outside of work, Raguse loves backyard barbeques with his family, playing fantasy football, and hunting down vintage Star Wars toys for his two kids.


Book Review ARC ~ THE UNEXPECTED BENEFITS OF BEING RUN OVER

The Unexpected Benefits of Being Run Over

By Naseem Rochette


SYNOPSIS – Find the beauty and the power in your cracks.
Recognize that breaking doesn’t mean broken.

In a pedestrian crosswalk on a quiet tree-lined street, Naseem is hit and then run over three times. Onlookers yell for the driver to stop as she hears her fate in her husband’s screams. Is he is watching the mother of his children die?

Miraculously, she survives, yet she is no longer the person she worked so hard to be. Her “cracks”—the changes to her body and mind—initially feel impossible to accept. In learning to embrace this new, unrecognizable self, Naseem decides to celebrate the day she almost lost her life as the day she discovered her true strength—her Unbreakable Day.

In this unique memoir, equal parts heart wrenching and inspiring, Naseem lays bare the reality of personal trauma—and how we each have the power to reimagine our lives and find beauty in both being broken and unbreakable.


MY THOUGHTS – This was a memorable quick read that was well written and well meant. The word “inspiring” comes to mind quickly, as the author was such a workaholic powerhouse prior to this accident. Her lessons learned are painful and enlightening, bringing me to tears by the end.



PUBLISHER – Misfit Blue – 182 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – April 4th, 2023

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Naseem Rochette is a seasoned sales leader, working mother, occasional wedding officiant, and passionate speaker on trauma, transformation, and the value of celebrating both victories and struggles.

She has more than twenty years of experience across early-stage start-ups as well as established companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Ernst & Young.

In Naseem’s ongoing efforts to understand and interpret the world, she has earned a master’s in journalism from Columbia University, where she was a founding member of the Rutgers Design Thinking Advisory Board. She also has a bachelor’s in English literature from the University of Maryland and an executive certificate in organizational leadership from Rollins College.

At home, Naseem enjoys her very own menagerie, including three children, four cats, two dogs, and one husband in South Orange, New Jersey — a bundle of chaos and joy she calls her personal youth serum.

Throughout Naseem’s life, career, and academic adventures, she has taken pride in her ability to help people solve problems, ideate possibilities, and foster trust and collaboration among diverse teams. However, it wasn’t until her near-death moment that she found her real courage and most impactful gift, the strength to appreciate — and share– the imperfections and insights that inspire transformation in all of us.


Book Review ARC ~ WE WERE ONCE A FAMILY

We Were Once A Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America

by Roxanna Asgarian


SYNOPSIS – The shocking, deeply reported story of a murder-suicide that claimed the lives of six children—and a searing indictment of the American foster care system.

On March 26, 2018, rescue workers discovered a crumpled SUV and the bodies of two women and several children at the bottom of a cliff beside the Pacific Coast Highway. Investigators soon concluded that the crash was a murder-suicide, but there was more to the story: Jennifer and Sarah Hart, it turned out, were a white married couple who had adopted the six Black children from two different Texas families in 2006 and 2008. Behind the family’s loving facade, however, was a pattern of abuse and neglect that went ignored as the couple withdrew the children from school and moved across the country. It soon became apparent that the State of Texas knew very little about the two individuals to whom it had given custody of six children—with fateful consequences.

In the manner of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family and other classic works of investigative journalism, Roxanna Asgarian’s We Were Once a Family is a revelation of vulnerable lives; it is also a shattering exposé of the foster care and adoption systems that produced this tragedy. As a journalist in Houston, Asgarian became the first reporter to put the children’s birth families at the center of the story. We follow the author as she runs up against the intransigence of a state agency that removes tens of thousands of kids from homes each year in the name of child welfare, while often failing to consider alternatives. Her reporting uncovers persistent racial biases and corruption as children of color are separated from birth parents without proper cause. The result is a riveting narrative and a deeply reported indictment of a system that continues to fail America’s most vulnerable children while upending the lives of their families.


MY THOUGHTS – This is a very in-depth look at the story behind the headlines of the tragic deaths that were so in the news at the time. If you ever wanted to know more than the basic reporting when it happened, this is a really good book. It tells how the kids ended up with the Hart women, despite red flags. Also, it tells about some surprising laws and policies in place at the time that helped the situation happen.



PUBLISHER – Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux – 320 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – March 14th, 2023

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Roxanna Asgarian is a Houston-based journalist who writes about the child welfare and criminal justice systems. Her work has appeared in The Washington PostNew York, and Texas Monthly, among other publications. Shereceived the 2022 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for We Were Once a Family.


Book Review ~ WITH THE DEVIL’S HELP

With the Devil’s Help: A True Story of Poverty, Mental Illness, and Murder

by Neal Wooten


SYNOPSIS – In the tradition of The Glass Castle, Educated, and Heartland, Neal Wooten traces five decades of his dirt-poor, Alabama mountain family as the years and secrets coalesce.

Neal Wooten grew up in a tiny community atop Sand Mountain, Alabama, where everyone was white and everyone was poor. Prohibition was still embraced. If you wanted alcohol, you had to drive to Georgia or ask the bootlegger sitting next to you in church. Tent revivals, snake handlers, and sacred harp music were the norm, and everyone was welcome as long as you weren’t Black, brown, gay, atheist, Muslim, a damn Yankee, or a Tennessee Vol fan.

The Wooten’s lived a secret existence in a shack in the woods with no running water, no insulation, and almost no electricity. Even the school bus and mail carrier wouldn’t go there. Neal’s family could hide where they were, but not what they were. They were poor white trash. Cops could see it. Teachers could see it. Everyone could see it.

Growing up, Neal was weaned on folklore legends of his grandfather—his quick wit, quick feet, and quick temper.  He discovers how this volatile disposition led to a murder, a conviction, and ultimately to a daring prison escape and a closely guarded family secret.

Being followed by a black car with men in black suits was as normal to Neal as using an outhouse, carrying drinking water from a stream, and doing homework by the light of a kerosene lamp. And Neal’s father, having inherited the very same traits of his father, made sure the frigid mountain winters weren’t the most brutal thing his family faced.

Told from two perspectives, this story alternates between Neal’s life and his grandfather’s, culminating in a shocking revelation. Take a journey to the Deep South and learn what it’s like to be born on the wrong side of the tracks, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of a violent mental illness.


MY THOUGHTS – I enjoyed this read, but can’t help but feel that either I or my Kindle missed part of it. I was still confused at the end, so I may have to try a re-read to get the full story this time.



PUBLISHER – Pegasus Crime – 319 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Sep 6th, 2022

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Neal Wooten grew up on a pig farm on Sand Mountain in the northeast corner of Alabama. The first person in the history of his family to graduate from high school, Neal went on to graduate from Auburn University with a B.S. in applied mathematics. He became a math teacher and director of a math school in Milwaukee, winning numerous math awards.  He is now the Managing Editor for Mirror Publishing, a contributor to the Huffington Post, columnist for The Mountain Valley News, curator of the Fort Payne Depot Museum, creator of the popular Facebook comic strip “Brad’s Pit,” and standup comedian.


Book Review ARC ~ TREMORS IN THE BLOOD

Tremors in the Blood: Murder, Obsession, and the Birth of the Lie Detector

by Amit Katwala


SYNOPSIS – A thrilling account of the creation of the so-called lie detector, exploring shocking murders and dramatic trials to uncover the true nature of the polygraph. This tense true crime story is perfect for fans of American Predator and The Invention of Murder.

Late one evening in the summer of 1922, Henry Wilkens burst through the doors of the emergency room covered in his wife’s blood. But was he a grieving husband, or a ruthless killer who conspired with bandits to have her murdered?

To find out, the San Francisco police turned to technology and a new machine that had just been invented in Berkeley by a rookie detective, a visionary police chief, and a teenage magician with a showman’s touch.

John Larson, Gus Vollmer and Leonarde Keeler hoped the lie detector would make the justice system fairer – but the flawed device soon grew too powerful for them to control. It poisoned their lives, turned fast friends into bitter enemies, and as it conquered America and the world, it transformed our relationship with the truth in ways that are still being felt.

As new forms of lie detection gain momentum in the present day, Tremors in the Blood reveals the incredible truth behind the creation of the polygraph, through gripping true crime cases featuring explosive gunfights, shocking twists and high-stakes courtroom drama.

Touching on psychology, technology and the science of the truth, Tremors in the Blood is a vibrant, atmospheric thriller, and a warning from history: beware what you believe.


MY THOUGHTS – This was an interesting deep dive into a vintage murder of a wife/mother of 2 back in 1922. It follows the invention of the lie detector and how this case and others played into the success of the machine. They began to feel that the woman’s husband was involved in her murder after it was at first considered that he passed the test. Very good information on Gus Vollmer, a one-time mailman, and how he got into police work and changed it for the better in many ways.



PUBLISHER – Crooked Lane Books – 352 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Mar 8th, 2023

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Amit Katwala is an award-winning journalist and editor. He is a senior writer at WIRED, based in London. He writes about the collision between technology and culture, and has covered everything from the race for quantum supremacy to the hunt for the mysterious Planet Nine. He grew up in Bournemouth, and studied experimental psychology at Oxford University.


Book Review ~ THE BLACK WIDOW

The Black Widow

by Louise Worthington


SYNOPSISThe Black Widow is a collection of poetry influenced by true crime poetry and literary heroines. The spider’s web is a powerful metaphor for exploring cases of injustice and abused women who kill. This emotive collection gives voice to those unjustly convicted, to abuse survivors and their children, and to the foster carers who look after them. The influences of literature inspire poems from the perspective of Lady Macbeth, Madame Bovary and the Duchess of Malfi.




MY THOUGHTS – I found these poems which are inspired by true crime to be highly satisfying. Much better than I expected them to be, for something I’d never encountered before. I just found them evocative and stirring, perhaps due to my grief and lack of sleep but I like them just the same.



PUBLISHER – Red Escape Publishing- 82 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Nov 3rd, 2022

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Hello! I write psychological fiction to make readers think twice.

I started writing psychological thrillers and horror in 2019 after studying for a postgraduate diploma in psychology and reading true crime non-fiction. My degree is in literature, and I taught English in secondary schools for many years. The emotional pull of a story is very important to me, both as a reader and a writer.

I am a member of the Society of Authors and the Horror Writers Association (HWA). My latest work-in-progress, a psychological horror novel, recently won the top spot on Litopia with agent Peter Cox.

My family and I live in Shropshire, a rural, historic county in the UK. My day job is tutoring and running a farm with my husband.

You can sign up for my newsletter and find my blog here: https://www.louise-worthington.com


Book Review ARC ~ END OF INNOCENCE

End of Innocence: The Untold Stories Behind the Victims of Child Killer Robert Black

by Zoe Apostolides


SYNOPSIS – End of Innocence is the first in a non-fiction series (‘Truly Unforgotten’) exploring UK cold cases.

The book focuses on the 1978 disappearance of Genette Tate. The 13-year-old schoolgirl vanished while out delivering newspapers on her bicycle in the Exeter countryside; no trace of her was ever discovered.

With new and rarely seen comments from family, police and inside the courtroom, the story links her case to the earlier abductions of April Fabb (also 13), Christine Markham (9) and Mary Boyle (6). None of these unsolved cases was assumed to be linked until 1990, when a man was apprehended having just kidnapped a six-year-old girl. That man was Robert Black, a notorious murderer about whom relatively little has been written.

The majority of Black’s victims were working-class girls, whose parents lacked the resources to mount private investigations. Genette’s disappearance was by far the most publicised, and the book uses dramatic, fictionalised descriptions based on facts and interviews to compare her case with the others. The book also spotlights the vast difference in police work/co-operation and note-sharing in the 60s and 70s.

When Black was eventually caught, he was charged with four murders and sentenced to life, though the true number of his victims was very likely far higher. Police were preparing to charge Black with Genette Tate’s abduction and murder when he died in prison in 2016.


MY THOUGHTS – This is a richly written story of child disappearances over the decades in the UK. You feel the anguish of the families searching for answers. Good research and information about this lesser known serial killer named Robert Black. This book is the first of a series.



PUBLISHER – Ad Lib Publishers – 240 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Dec 1st, 2022

MY RATING – 4/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR –

Zoë has worked as a journalist for ten years, covering lifestyle, literature, art and education for the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and others.

She has ghost-written several memoirs and biographies and combines this with editorial work as a literary agent with a particular interest in crime, horror and narrative non-fiction across all genres.


Book Review ARC ~ THE FOREVER WITNESS

The Forever Witness: How Genetic Genealogy Solved a Cold Case Double Murder

by Edward Humes


SYNOPSIS – A relentless detective and an amateur genealogist solve a haunting cold case — and launch a crime-fighting revolution that tests the fragile line between justice and privacy.
 
In November 1987, a young couple on an overnight trip to Seattle vanished without a trace. A week later, the bodies of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend Jay Cook were found in rural Washington. It was a brutal crime, and it was the perfect crime: With few clues and no witnesses, an international manhunt turned up empty, and the sensational case that shocked the Pacific Northwest gradually slipped from the headlines.
 
In deep-freeze, long-term storage, biological evidence from the crime sat waiting, as Detective Jim Scharf poured over old case files looking for clues his predecessors missed. Meanwhile, 1,200 miles away in California, CeCe Moore began her lifelong fascination with genetic genealogy, a powerful forensic tool that emerged not from the crime lab, but through the wildly popular home DNA ancestry tests purchased by more than 40 million Americans. When Scharf decided to send the cold case’s decades-old DNA to Parabon NanoLabs, he hoped he would finally bring closure to the Van Cuylenborg and Cook families. He didn’t know that he and Moore would make history.
 
Genetic genealogy, long the province of family tree hobbyists and adoptees seeking their birth families, has made headlines as a cold case solution machine, capable of exposing the darkest secrets of seemingly upstanding citizens. In the hands of a tenacious detective like Scharf, genetic genealogy has solved one baffling killing after another. But as this crime-fighting technique spreads, its sheer power has sparked a national debate: Can we use DNA to catch the murderers among us, yet still protect our last shred of privacy in the digital age—the right to the very blueprint of who we are?


MY THOUGHTS – I already enjoy the writing of Edward Humes, and this book was another good one. The cold case behind this story seemed familiar once I got into it. A young Canadian couple disappeared in November of 1987 on a trip to Seattle to pick up furnace parts. When detective Jim Scharf delves into the cold case decades later, he’s determined to make a difference. Then add Cece Moore, who came up with a method to use genetic genealogy to help narrow down suspects for law enforcement, and magic happened. Loved this true crime book, though it does make you think about the issues around the databases for genealogy sites, and how private they should be about sharing their info.


THE FOREVER WITNESS


PUBLISHER – DUTTON – 384 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Nov 29th, 2022

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Edward Humes is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author whose fifteen previous books include BurnedMississippi Mud, and the PEN Award–winning No Matter How Loud I Shout. He splits his time between Seattle and Southern California.


Book Review ARC ~ I SAW THE DEVIL’S FACE

I Saw the Devil’s Face: My Life With Joseph Michael Kalady

by Teresa Giglio


SYNOPSIS – “You better hope to God the cops don’t come,” my babysitter, Joe Kalady, threatened me that day on his boat at Burnham Harbor. He and the other man were planning to rob a liquor store. My divorced dad, who was on his way to pick me up, didn’t know anything about that — or the prostitution Joe had used me for at age eight. So he took me out for an Italian ice to stop me crying.

When we got home and mom found my panties missing yet again, it clicked. She forbade Kalady to babysit, and me to ever speak of it again.

Fifty years later I’m here to talk about the marauding Kalady, the children he raped with impunity, the near-death experience I had on his yacht, and the toddler he kidnapped on a whim. I can tell you what I’ve learned about his mafia involvement, and introduce you to the homeless man he eventually lured to his death in a vain attempt to avoid spending the last of his days in prison.

This is my personal story of one of Chicago’s most ruthless and successful undetected child predators. I knew a man who spent his whole life in and out of jail, the terrorist-adjacent thief, con man, and murderer Joseph Michael Kalady.


MY THOUGHTS – This is a heartbreaking book by a very determined lady. She suffered so much in her young life, but her resilience shines through. It’s frustrating to see how this man was able to dodge responsibility his entire life for his crimes against children. But at least his story is being told now by someone he hurt, who has spent a long time finding her way back.


I SAW THE DEVIL’S FACE

PUBLISHER – Ind. Published – 276 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – Oct 31st, 2022

MY RATING – 5/5 STARS


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Teresa Giglio is a veteran firefighter and paramedic living with multiple disabilities. She writes true crime for survivors. Find her at teresagiglio.com