My Five Star Reads of 2019

I was very fortunate this year to have found many books that were super reads. Just lucky, I guess. I also had very few DNF’s. It was a very good year overall, other than my struggles with my vision and extreme sleep apnea interfering so much with my reading during the day.  Otherwise, I could have easily read twice as much, and used to in days past.

So below are my 5 star books of this year, 20 in all, most of which can be found at Amazon and other major bookstores. I would say the last 2 were especially important.  Here is the link to all of the books I read this year showing in my reading challenge on Goodreads:   Among them you will find a ton of good 4 star reads in the true crime and biography categories also if you have similar tastes. You may want to check those out.  Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful New Year!


Drug Warrior: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo and the Rise of America’s Opioid Crisis

by Jack Riley


My review:

Dead in the Water: My Forty-Year Search for My Brother’s Killer  by Penny Farmer



My review:

A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love and Overcoming

By Kerri Rawson


My review:

Where Monsters Hide: Sex, Murder,  and Madness in the Midwest

By M. William Phelps


My review:

A Hero on Mount St. Helens: The Life and Legacy of David A. Johnston

by Melanie Holmes


My review:

The Girl in the Treehouse: A Memoir   by Jennifer Asbenson


My review:


Railroaded:  Framed For Murder, Fighting For Justice

by Samuel  L.  Sommer


My review:


Jet Girl:  My Life in War, Peace, and the Cockpit of the Navy’s Most Lethal Aircraft

by Caroline Johnson


My review:

Just Mercy:  A Story of Justice and Redemption  by Bryan Stevenson


My review :


The Gangster’s Cousin: Growing Up in the Luciano Family

by Salvatore Lucania


My review:


The Black Widow: My Web of Secrets and the truth about my murder conviction

by Linda Calvey


My review:


The Blood on my Hands: An Autobiography   by Shannon O’Leary


My review:

Out of the Fire and Into the Pan (Sequel)   by Shannon O’Leary


My review:


They Must Be Monsters   by Matthew Leroy, Derric Haddad


My review:


Janis:  Her Life and Music    by Holly George-Warren


My review:


Kidnapped by a Client: An Attorney’s Fight For Justice at any Cost

by Sharon R. Muse, JD


My review:


The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle                                                   by Kent Alexander, Kevin Salwin


My review:


Epic Solitude: A Story of Survival and a Quest for Meaning in the Far North

by Katherine Keith


My review:


Know My Name   by Chanel Miller


My review:


If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood                                                                                                  by Gregg Olsen


My review:


BOOK REVIEW ~ The Unexpected Spy

The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists


I stayed up late the first night reading this, until I just couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. I might have read it right through if I hadn’t been so tired from just inhaling another book before this one. A really good read about a young lady spy for the CIA who goes after bad guy terrorists after 9/11. She later changes jobs to work for the FBI. I found it a good book and hope it might give some young women different goals for the future about making a difference. I found this to be another book I got right through, as I enjoyed it so much and recommend if you like this type of subject. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Tracy Walder & Jessica Anya Blau, and the publisher.


The publisher: St. Martin’s Press – 272 pages
Publication: Feb 25th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars

The Author- Tracy Walder is a former Staff Operations Officer (SOO) at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and a Special Agent at the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office specializing in Chinese counterintelligence operations. Walder currently teaches high-school history and government courses at Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas.


BOOK REVIEW ~ Errol Flynn: Satan’s Angel

Errol Flynn: Satan’s Angel by David Bret


The original Australian American action adventure star who was originally discovered by an agent of Warner Brothers. He didn’t kowtow to the studio heads though, he told it like it is, in his opinion. It’s filled with stories about his rise to stardom and life long history of debauchery, which turns out to have no bias toward either gender or age. He was also quite the party animal, which sometimes caused him trouble when he was working on movies. He found it easy to run into party buddies to join him in the evenings when he went out to prowl, and of course the women were always plentiful for all of them. He was a prodigious drinker and sometimes experimented with different drugs here and there as well.

Flynn was married 3 times and had a son and 3 daughters. I’ve gotten hooked on his exploits and have already ordered 2 more books on the subject, one written by him just before he died that came out just after, written with a ghostwriter, titled His Wicked Wicked Ways, which most are familiar with. The other book I’m getting was written as a memoir by the ghostwriter Conrad and looks to be just as juicy as he adds things that Flynn couldn’t say, really. It also goes into their time in Jamaica writing Flynn’s book together while Flynn was with the under aged Beverly Aadland, who he kept mum about in his own book, wanting to avoid another rape trial. He needn’t have worried after all, as he was too far gone to live to see any trial. Then I’ll want to look for his movies to watch, a few of the better ones, at least.


PaperBack bought – 2019
Publisher: Robson Books – 272 pages
Publication: Sep, 1st, 2004
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

The Author- David Bret is a French-born British author of showbiz biographies. He chiefly writes on the private life of film stars and singers.


Book Review ~ GABACHO

Gabacho: Drugs Landed Me In Mexican Prison, Theatre Saved Me

This is a story about two guys who decide to go on an adventure during Christmas break at college, and take their rent and tuition money down to Mexico and try to turn it into some cocaine that they can take back to the dorms and sell to make a profit, or maybe trade the Bronco they are driving with stolen plates for drugs. Richard bought it just for that purpose on a low payment plan, then reported it stolen just before leaving. They planned for months and think they have it all covered. They have second thoughts just before they go, but decide this is the perfect time to do it. They will be ok and come back with some good drugs that they can sell and make some good money to pay for their rent and tuition for the rest of the whole year, and be set good.

Of course, things don’t work out quite as they’ve planned, as they are total greenhorns with no experience and they get arrested. They end up in a Mexican prison with little money, no Bronco and no drugs to sell. They are in a lot of trouble. They need to come up with money for a lawyer to either try to get them a lighter sentence, or bribe their way out, or get them transferred to serve the remainder of their sentence in the US. The friends, Jeff and Richard, are becoming more at odds the longer this goes on, and by the time they are locked up in prison for a few weeks, they are barely talking. They can’t agree on how to handle the situation. Richard knows that they have done wrong, and that they have to take responsibility and do their time. Jeff however, feels that since they were only able to end up with marijuana, which is hardly worse than alcohol and should be legal, they shouldn’t be locked up at all, in his mind. So he is going to try to find a way to escape and not even bother trying to find a lawyer or contacting anyone back home. He seems very jittery and stares out the window a lot.

Richard decides to try and get a theatre group started, for something to pass the time, as he figures he’ll be there at least a couple of years, and he was planning on starting one that was independent back at college after the holiday break was over. He had talked to the others involved in it, to see if there was any interest and they seemed skeptical but interested. So he put out feelers in the prison to see if he could get any actors and helpers, and also set out to learn Spanish in a hurry.

I recommend this book for those that enjoy this type of memoir. I’ve read other books by the co-writer and he does a good job. This turned out to be a decent story to check out and I’m glad I read it. A bit of true crime, prison insider things and trying to make something positive out of the situation. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors Richard Jewkes with Brian Whitney, and the publisher.



WildBlue Press – 267 pages
Publication: July 16th, 2019
RATING: 4/5 Stars

The Author– Brian Whitney has been a prisoner advocate, a landscaper, and a homeless outreach worker. His interests include ruminating and perseverating. He has written or coauthored numerous books, and has been featured or appeared on Inside Edition, Fox News,,, True Murder, and True Crime Garage. He has written for Alternet, Pacific Standard Magazine, Paste Magazine, and many other places. He is appearing at CrimeCon in 2019.



BULLIED TO DEATH: A Story Of Bullying, Social Media, And The Suicide Of Sherokee Harriman

This was a good story about a teenage girl who was having problems that included bullying. It looks at many aspects of her life, different things that had happened earlier in her life that had made her struggles difficult, along with various things they had tried to help her.  The book covers a very important story and the subject of the ongoing problem of bullying and also mentions other cases that ended in suicide.  It is very informative and also heartbreaking for sure, as the problem seemed to be almost a common thing.  Not just the bullying but also the incidence of teen depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts.  It is something that communities are used to dealing with on a regular basis for sure.   There were a few odd grammar glitches in the book that stood out to me.

Date of publication:  April 10, 2018

WildBlue Press


The Tragic Secret Life of Jayne Mansfield

Originally published as a hardcover in 1974 by Raymond Strait. I read this as a kindle edition. This book turned out to be a decent read about Jayne Mansfield, one of the last of the studio contract stars. It’s written by a man who was an employee off and on for 10 years but was also her friend and confidant. He saw all of the drama with her multiple husbands and lovers, and he had his own strange intimate relationship with her from time to time. Strait saw the highs of her career and was along for the duration, trying at times to give her helpful advice. I learned a lot about the star that I was unaware of beyond the sex bomb thing and just how she died. She became more of a real person after reading this book and learning about her life, her childhood and her relationship with her mom. Then, of course, her multiple marriages and children.

She was intelligent and hardworking and started out going for her dream, but seems to have lost her way and that dream after some years in the business. Her personal life and stability seemed to go downhill after her 2nd divorce and she never really was able to find lasting happiness with one man, though she was always searching. Ultimately a truly sad story, ending in tragedy, as most know. The book fills in a lot of the details that many may not know. Interesting for those who like Hollywood biographies, non-fiction.

Publication:  Feb 26, 2016

Up On Game: From Robbing Banks to Stacking Bitcoin

This book was somewhat different for me. It was written by a young man who for lack of Taco Bell money, decided to go out with a couple of friends and just out of the blue rob a bank. Now I didn’t take this too seriously at first, thinking it was just talking. But as the chapter went on, it soon became clear that the guy was serious because they were soon divvying up the ill-gotten gains, and then a celebration was In order. After splitting the haul and spending the money, they felt that they needed to start planning another robbery right away to keep some form of money coming in. The book tells how he goes from being a busted bank robber to a trader in bitcoin. A fascinating true crime story.

An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley and authors Richard Stanley & Thomas A. Reppett for my honest review.

Concierge Marketing, Inc.
Publication date: April 10, 2018

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery

A very good book written by multiple cancer survivor Barbara Lipska, who is such an accomplished lady. She is the head of the brain bank at NIMH (National Institute of M. H.) in and has studied the brain for over 30 years. Until one day hers seemingly went haywire and she had to go and get treated for melanoma in the brain. While she was being treated for it, it left her acting like she had some of the mental illnesses that she’d been studying all those decades.

This is one strong lady used to being in charge and when her brain started acting off, her family really didn’t know how to react, and she didn’t realize it’s happening, so it’s a real mess for a while because no one wants to take the reins from her or tell her she’s not in charge anymore.
She tells a well planned out story and is so wonderfully qualified to explain what went wrong, and how it made her act while it was going on. She knew pretty quickly that there was a problem and went to get checked out by her doctor, and they found the problem. An MRI was done and 3 tumors were found. It follows as she fights to get well again with this scary condition, knowing what’s going on in her head all too well.

An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley and author Barbara K. Lipska for my honest review.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
April 3, 2018.

I, a Squealer: The Insider’s Account of the “Pied Piper of Tucson” Murders

This book about Charles Schmid, Jr. the so-called Pied piper of Tucson is rather astonishing, mainly because it was written back in 1967. It’s an actual firsthand account from the days when Richard Bruns used to be a running buddy of the killer. Although by that late date, he was completely afraid of him and worried that he or the girl he cared about were going to be killed by Schmid. He was half out of his mind with worry and was spending most of his time practically stalking his former girlfriend, just to be sure she was safe. It got so bad, he finally felt he had no choice but to go to the police and become…a squealer. A thing he despised but was the only way he could keep the woman safe. If you are a true crime fan, you will enjoy this historic look at a famous killer from the 1960’s, told by his friend who was there. It’s certainly an insider’s look.

An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley, and author Richard Bruns, for my honest review.

Twin Feathers Publishing
March 20, 2018

THE BEAST I LOVED: A Battered Woman’s Desperate Struggle To Survive

This wonderfully informative book, originally published as FIGHTING BACK in 2000 is by Robert Davidson. It tells the story of June Briand, whose life of misery turns even worse when she marries Jimmy Briand. What started out feeling like the answer to her prayers when her previous husband left her, slowly turns into the biggest nightmare a person could imagine as Jimmy begins battering June to control her, fearing she might leave him. It just gets worse as time goes by, and the injuries are awful just to read about. One can’t imagine having to suffer through them while trying to keeping house to please such a brute and take care of his children too.

She was so mentally beaten down by him, and so terrified of him that it’s a wonder she didn’t break before she did. The book gives some really good background on June and some on how Jimmy became the way he was, and explains how their codependency played off one another in this vicious cycle of abuse. A good book for those interested in true crime, women’s issues, domestic violence, and more.

WildBlue Press 2nd Edition published March 13, 2018