BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ The Unusual Suspect

The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Day Outlaw

By Ben Machell

The remarkable true story of a modern-day Robin Hood: a British college student who started robbing banks as the financial crisis unfolded.

Stephen Jackley was a young British college student when the global financial crisis began in 2007. Overwhelmed by the growing indifference toward economic equality, he became obsessed with the idea of taking on the role of Robin Hood. With no prior experience, he resolved to become a bank robber. He would steal from the rich and give to the poor. Against all likelihood, his plan actually worked.

Jackley used disguises, elaborate escape routes, and fake guns to successfully hold up a string of banks, making away with thousands of pounds. He attempted ten robberies in southwest England over a six-month period. Banknotes marked with “RH”—“Robin Hood”—began finding their way into the hands of the homeless. Motivated by a belief that global capitalism was ruining lives and driving the planet toward ecological disaster, he dreamed of changing the world for the better through his crimes. The police, despite their concerted efforts, had no idea what was going on or who was responsible. That is, until Jackley’s ambition got the better of him.

This is his story.
Acclaimed journalist Ben Machell had full and direct access to Stephen Jackley, who in turn shared his complete set of diaries, selections of which are included throughout the narrative. The result lends an intense intimacy and urgency to Jackley’s daring and disturbing tale, shedding light on his mental state and the challenges he faced in his own mind and beyond. It wasn’t until Jackley was held in custody that he underwent a psychiatric evaluation, resulting in a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.
Behind the simple act of bank robbery lies a complex and emotionally wrought story of an individual whose struggles led him to create a world in which he would succeed.

My thoughts: A book about a very unique individual named Steve Jackley who grows up in unusual circumstances. This is another book I had to “wish” for and was lucky enough to obtain. I became engrossed in his life of growing up in a tough situation in several ways. He grows up with a strong social conscience and wants to make a difference in the injustice of the huge gap between the haves and the have nots. I found this to be quite an amazing story. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Ben Machell, and the publisher.

Publisher: Ballantine Books – 288 pages
Publication: Jan 19th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS

About the author– Ben Machell is a feature writer for The Times and The Times Magazine and a contributor to publications He has been shortlisted for Feature Writer of the Year at the British Press Awards. Ben has full and exclusive access to Stephen Jackley and his surviving diaries, as well as access to law enforcement and the key characters involved in Jackley’s story on both sides of the Atlantic.

BOOK REVIEW ~ Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy: Harness the power of essential oils to relax, restore, and revitalize

by Louise Robinson

Use essential oils with confidence and make aromatherapy an indispensable part of your self-care routine.

Science now supports what practitioners have long known: that oils derived from plants have powerful therapeutic properties, working holistically on mind, body, and spirit. This carefully curated collection of blends, remedies, and practices shows you how to blend essential oils to care for and heal yourself, follow step-by-step massage routines, and combine aromatherapy with yoga, meditation, and breathwork to deliver maximum benefit to you.

This is your essential aromatherapy toolkit for wellness in the modern world.

My thoughts: This is neat new aromatherapy book by Louise Robinson with a focus on self-care. I’ve long had an interest in aromatherapy and went crazy for a while with it, experimenting with different oils to see how they made me feel. I used lots of lavender for relaxing, and I enjoyed sweet orange and lemon to perk up. I tried many others just to see what they were like. I even bought some that were good for dogs. So I got this book to read to see what it had. I wanted to check out combining aromatherapy with medication and breathwork, and see if I can pick up anything new to use in it. You might find something useful too if you are a fan of essential oils. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Louise Robinson, and the publisher.


Publisher: DK – 144 pages
Publication: Jan 12th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS

About the author– Louise Robinson, MIFPA, PRM, LCIC Dip, BA(hons) Aromatherapy, is a professional aromatherapy, massage, and reflexology practitioner. Having originally trained with Neal’s Yard Remedies, she now divides her time between running her busy therapy practice near London and providing aromatherapy massage within an acute mental health unit in a major London hospital. Louise believes that the power of aromatherapy enables her to give her clients a truly custom holistic healing treatment, bringing balance and harmony to their body, mind, and spirit. She is passionate about promoting self care, supporting her clients with their well-being and helping them thrive.

BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ American Daughter

American Daughter: A Memoir
By: Stephanie Thornton Plymale & Elissa Wald

For 50 years, Stephanie Plymale kept her past a fiercely guarded secret. No one outside her immediate family would have guessed that her childhood was fraught with every imaginable hardship: a mentally ill mother who was in and out of jails and psych wards throughout Stephanie’s formative years, neglect, hunger, poverty, homelessness, truancy, foster homes, a harrowing lack of medical care, and ongoing sexual abuse.

Stephanie, in turn, knew very little about the past of her mother, from whom she remained estranged during amost of her adult life. All this changed with a phone call that set a journey of discovery in motion, leading to a series of shocking revelations that forced Stephanie to revise the meaning of almost every aspect of her very compromised childhood.

American Daughter is at once the deeply moving memoir of a troubled mother-daughter relationship and a meditation on trauma, resilience, transcendence, and redemption. Stephanie’s story is unique but its messages are universal, offering insight into what it means to survive, to rise above, to heal, and to forgive.

My thoughts: I found this to be a very gripping book once I got fully into it, with its delving into the author and her dying mother’s background, and their painful interactions. It eased into becoming one of those page turners that I stayed up all night reading to the finish, despite no plans to do so. It’s very moving and painful, amazing at times, quite a read. If you have an interest in this type of read, you might want to give it a look also. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Stephanie Thornton Plymale & Elissa Wald, and the publisher.

American Daughter

Publisher: Harper One – 288 pages
Publication: Jan 12th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS

About the author– Stephanie Thornton Plymale is the CEO of Heritage School of Interior Design and the founder of the Heritage Home Foundation, a nonprofit serving families transitioning from homelessness. She lives with her husband and three children in Portland, Oregon.

BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ Catastrophes & Heroes

Catastrophes and Heroes: True Stories of Man-Made Disasters

By Jerry Borrowman

A century of the industrial age saw unprecedented leaps in technology and engineering, from the first flight of an airplane to the first flight of humans to the moon. But alongside these awe-inspiring achievements were horrible disasters caused by faulty engineering or careless judgement. Catastrophes and Heroes explores eight such disasters and recognizes the unheralded heroes who stepped up to save others in times of great danger.

Included in this collection are the stories of female phone operators who, despite being in the path of destruction after the Los Angeles St. Francis Dam collapsed in 1928, stayed on the job to warn others to evacuate, Ernest Hemingway, who assisted survivors in his own boat after a hurricane destroyed the Florida East Coast Railway in 1935, and Ernest Betts who, though knowing little first aid, saved thirty people after the streamliner train The City of San Francisco crashed in the Nevada mountains in 1939.

Filled with little-known stories and historical insights, this book explores the rich history of the marvels of engineering and technological advances in the span of a century and reveals how the perils, though disastrous, gave rise to heroism and compassion at a time when machines were supposed to do it all.

My thoughts: This book was a good, factual non-fiction read. Not easily available, its one that had to be “wished” for as an advance read, and I was happy to get one. It would make a perfect companion on cold autumn or winter night, snuggled up with your favorite mug of hot cocoa and a warm throw. The author builds the tension, working up to the catastrophe. Then the event itself unfolds, in intense detail and heroes can come forth at any point along the timeline if people are lucky enough.

I’d never heard of these rather big events, but they weren’t apparently widely written about and took place in the century before I was born. So that makes it not all that surprising that its new to me. It also makes it more of an intriguing read. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Jerry Borrowman, and the publisher.

Catastrophes & Heroes

Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing – 175 pages
Publication: Jan 5th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Nilsen File

The Nilsen File: Re-Opened

by Douglas Bence and Brian McConnell
Includes Nilsen’s own words smuggled from his prison cell

The Standard, May 12, 1983 — a fresh twist in the most astonishing gory case of mass murder since the Moors Murders.

In the unlikely setting of the staid London suburbs of Cricklewood and Muswell Hill, police began in February 1983 to unearth a tangled mass of human bones. Some dated back to 1979, many were unidentifiable, most belonged to transients of no fixed address and doubtful identity, all were victims of brutal killings on a systematic scale. And so began a full-scale investigation into a horrifying outrage.

This is the first full account of a bizarre series of crimes, put together by two Daily Mirror journalists. Brutal, eccentric, unsettling — a tortured parable of our future, The Nilsen File Re-Opened adds further insight and analysis into the inner workings of Dennis Nilsen the man. Drawing also on a range of hitherto neglected material and criticism to offer a 21st-century perspective on the case in its entirety, this updated edition scrutinises the actions of the police and questions whether Nilsen could have been caught much earlier.

My review: Author Douglas Bence decided to do this updated edition on his own, as his co-writer had passed away. The book is about infamous British murderer Dennis Nilsen, who got himself in trouble due to a clogged drain. I remember when this happened and later read the other book on him, Killing for Company by Brian Masters and got a general idea about his case. This book has more that wasn’t included in the other, more information about people he tried to kill that survived, etc. More about the incident that got him caught, being the clogged drain, and more on Nilsen himself. Gripping true crime at its best. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Douglas Bence, and the publisher.

Publisher: Lume Books – 235 pages
Publication: Nov 14th, 2020
My rating: 5/5 STARS

About the Author– Douglas Bence has a CV that’s probably longer than the road to ruin. In journalism since it was vaguely respectable, a trip to Ukraine and Southern Russian after the implosion of Communism diverted him into teaching. London-born, but now resident in Cornwall, this guitar playing (bad), bridge player (retired), skier (dangerous), one-time private pilot and Fleet Street hack has co-authored two non-fiction books and has just published a book of short stories, Tales to an Eight-eyed Grandson. A self-confessed compulsive writer, there is (you might think unfortunately!) much more to come.

MINI ARC REVIEW ~ BrodyMonster

BrodyMonster: A perfectionist and the world’s most imperfect terrier

by Liz Maritz

It all started with a bet thrown down by my husband, Jimmy. If I ran thirteen miles, I could bring home our first family dog—any kind of dog I wanted. The perfect dog.

Like every other decision in my life, this required hours of research and planning, complete with a last-minute flight to Chicago in a blizzard. Countless emails to various breeders across the country eventually led me to Brody, a “show-quality” wire-haired fox terrier puppy with champion lineage. But my plans changed as Brody’s bad behavior and multitudinous medical mishaps took us for a wild ride.

BrodyMonster is a candid and heartwarming story that you’ll find at the crossroads of Marley and Me and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k. How living with a “terrible” terrier taught me to embrace life’s imperfections.

My thoughts: I thought the premise for this debut non-fiction book was really cute and couldn’t wait to dig into it. From the playful cover to the heartfelt story, I liked everything about this book. The author really made a huge sacrifice in order to get to have full say in choosing this dog, so you can feel how important it is to her, and how much she wants him. I followed along with where things led, rooting for her and the dog to be a good match.

I felt this book was well-written and well-told, and most any dog enthusiast would enjoy it. I was happy to have gotten the advance electronic review copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Liz Maritz, and the publisher.


Publisher: Liz Maritz, LLC
Publication: Dec 15th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 STARS

BOOK PREVIEW ~ Pretty Evil New England

Pretty Evil New England: True Stories of Violent Vixens and Murderous Matriarchs

by Sue Coletta


For four centuries, New England has been a cradle of crime and murder—from the Salem witch trials to the modern-day mafia. Nineteenth century New England was the hunting ground of five female serial killers: Jane Toppan, Lydia Sherman, Nellie Webb, Harriet E. Nason, and Sarah Jane Robinson.

Female killers are often portrayed as caricatures: Black Widows, Angels of Death, or Femme Fatales. But the real stories of these women are much more complex. In Pretty Evil New England, true crime author Sue Coletta tells the story of these five women, from broken childhoods, to first brushes with death, and she examines the overwhelming urges that propelled these women to take the lives of a combined total of more than one-hundred innocent victims. The murders, investigations, trials, and ultimate verdicts will stun and surprise readers as they live vicariously through the killers and the would-be victims that lived to tell their stories.

My thoughts: This is an awesome true crime book about 5 women in the New England area, all killers. What really surprised me was that I’d never heard of any of them and I’ve been reading about this subject for 45+ years. Author Sue Coletta does a section on each of the women. You get Jane Tappan, Lydia Sherman, Nellie Webb, Harriet E. Nason, and Sarah Jane Robinson each with their own details, history, and M.O. It’s wonderfully researched and written, and I highly recommend it for true crime readers. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Sue Coletta, and the publisher.

Pretty Evil

Publishers: Rowan & Littlefield – 296 pages
Publication: Nov 1st, 2020
My rating: 4/5 STARS

About the Author– Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer. For three years running, Feedspot named her Murder Blog as one of the Best 50 Crime Blogs on the Net (Murder Blog sits at #5). Sue also blogs at the Kill Zone, a multi-award-winning writing blog. In addition to blogging, she’s the communications manager for the Serial Killer Project and Forensic Science, both groups founded by New York homicide detective and cold case expert, Joe Giacolone. Sue also founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter to help crime writers add realism to fiction. She is an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Sue lives in central New Hampshire (Alexandria) and writes two serial killer thriller series published by Tirgearr Publishing.

BOOK REVIEW ~ Cold Case North

Cold Case North: The Search for James Brady and Absolom Halkett

By Michael Nest, Deanna Reder, and Eric Bell

Tells the story of the unsolved murder of indigenous activists, police investigation misconduct, and the community who tracked down the clues which officials failed to uncover.

Missing persons. Double murder? Métis leader James Brady was one of the most famous Indigenous activists in Canada. A communist, strategist, and bibliophile, he led Métis and First Nations to rebel against government and church oppression. Brady’s success made politicians and clergy fear him; he had enemies everywhere. In 1967, while prospecting in Saskatchewan with Cree Band Councillor and fellow activist, Absolom Halkett, both men vanished from their remote lakeside camp. For 50 years rumours swirled of secret mining interests, political intrigue, and murder. Cold Case North is the story of how a small team, with the help of the Indigenous community, exposed police failure in the original investigation, discovered new clues and testimony, and gathered the pieces of the North’s most enduring missing persons puzzle.

My thoughts: These three writers did an amazing job of researching and writing about the pair of well-educated indigenous activists who went missing so suddenly and strangely back in the late 1960s. The two had been dropped off by plane to do some prospecting, and the fairly new pilot accidentally dropped them off in the wrong location, where their maps would be no good. He later realized his mistake and reported it, to no avail. The two men were already missing and being looked for. Was it really an accident? Did they wander off and get lost, or were they injured by a wild animal? Or was it murder. Join this quest looking for the answers. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors, and the publisher.

Publisher: University of Regina Press – 272 pages
Publication: Nov 7th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars

About the Author:
Michael Nest is the award-winning author of three non-fiction books. Corruption, mining and conflict are the theme of the first two. The third, Still a Pygmy, is a collaboration with Congolese activist Isaac Bacirongo, the first Indigenous Pygmy to ever publish his memoir. Michael’s ‘day job’ is preventing corruption in government and in the mining sector. He lives in Montréal.

Deanna Reder (Cree-Métis), Associate Professor in the Departments of English and First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University, teaches Indigenous literatures, especially autobiography. Her SSHRC-funded research project, “The People and the Text” makes extensive use of library and archival methods, in collaboration with Indigenous research networks, to uncover forgotten or lost work by Canadian Indigenous authors. She has worked collaboratively to edit four anthologies and is the series editor of the Indigenous Studies Series for Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Eric Bell is a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. He has owned and operated La Ronge Emergency Medical Services for 25 years and was a Park Warden for 23 years with Parks Canada. His involvement in this search is personal as he remembers Jim Brady, who was a friend of the family, and Abbie Halkett, a fellow community member. Eric lives in La Ronge, SK.

MINI BOOK REVIEW ~ Flight 7 is Missing

Flight 7 is Missing: The Search For My Father’s Killer
by Ken H. Fortenberry

Dubbed by The New York Times as one of the “most vexing and unexplained” mysteries in aviation history, the crash of Pan American World Airways Flight 7 in November 1957 resulted in 44 deaths and remains officially unsolved to this day. 

But Ken H. Fortenberry, an award-winning journalist whose father was the copilot and navigator aboard the ill-fated plane, has devoted nearly sixty years of his life to unraveling this cold-case mystery, and has come to a staggering conclusion: that the victims of the crash were murdered. 

A remarkably researched book packed with information and emotion, Flight 7 Is Missing: The Search for My Father’s Killer is a gripping page-turner that reads like a fast-paced murder mystery. Join Fortenberry on his crusade as he tirelessly tracks down every possible lead and eventually exposes the person he believes responsible for this tragic crime.

My thoughts: This book took me some contortions to get through, not due to any fault of the book itself. Its just my weird sleep disorder has been a real bear lately. I did a lot of re-reading, forgetting the story, and taking longer and longer breaks from it. This intrepid son was determined to find an answer to what happened, if it took until his last breath. You have to admire that kind of dedication to his love for his father. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Ken Fortenberry, and the publisher.

Publisher: Fayetteville Mafia Press – 361 pages
Publication: May 19th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 STARS

About the author– A nationally recognized journalist and author, Ken H. Fortenberry spent more than 40 years in the newspaper business and personally earned more than 200 state, regional and national awards for excellence in journalism before his retirement in 2014. His directed newspaper coverage of child molesters teaching in public schools won the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, the Society of Professional Journalists’ (Sigma Delta Chi) Bronze Medallion for Public Service, and the national Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) award for investigative reporting. In 1987 millions of Americans were introduced to his work when he was featured on the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” the NBC “Today” show and profiled in the New York Times for his courageous reporting of corruption in a South Carolina sheriff’s office that resulted in explosions being set off at his home. He later wrote about his experiences in the critically acclaimed non-fiction book Kill the Messenger, published by Peachtree Publishers, and optioned several times for a TV movie. A Miami native now living in the mountains of North Carolina, he is the coauthor of two investigative stories about the crash of Pan American Flight 7 in the Air and Space Magazine, and is the father of five and the grandfather of eight.