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.

BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ The Killer’s Shadow

The Killer’s Shadow: The FBI’s Hunt for a White Supremacist Serial Killer (Files of the FBI’s Original Mindhunter Book 1)

By John Douglas & Mark Olshaker

The legendary FBI criminal profiler and international bestselling author of Mindhunter and The Killer Across the Table returns with this timely, relevant book that goes to the heart of extremism and domestic terrorism, examining in-depth his chilling pursuit of, and eventual prison confrontation with Joseph Paul Franklin, a White Nationalist serial killer and one of the most disturbing psychopaths he has ever encountered.

Worshippers stream out of an Midwestern synagogue after sabbath services, unaware that only a hundred yards away, an expert marksman and  avowed racist, antisemite and member of the Ku Klux Klan, patiently awaits, his hunting rifle at the ready. 

The October 8, 1977 shooting was a forerunner to the tragedies and divisiveness that plague us today. John Douglas, the FBI’s pioneering, first full-time criminal profiler, hunted the shooter—a white supremacist named Joseph Paul Franklin, whose Nazi-inspired beliefs propelled a three-year reign of terror across the United States, targeting African Americans, Jews, and interracial couples. In addition, Franklin bombed the home of Jewish leader Morris Amitay, shot and paralyzed Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, and seriously wounded civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. The fugitive supported his murderous spree robbing banks in five states, from Georgia to Ohio.

 Douglas and his writing partner Mark Olshaker return to this disturbing case that reached the highest levels of the Bureau, which was fearful Franklin would become a presidential assassin—and haunted him for years to come as the threat of copycat domestic terrorist killers increasingly became a reality. Detailing the dogged pursuit of Franklin that employed profiling, psychology and meticulous detective work, Douglas and Olshaker relate how the case was a make-or-break test for the still-experimental behavioral science unit and revealed a new type of, determined, mission-driven serial killer whose only motivation was hate.

A riveting, cautionary tale rooted in history that continues to echo today, The Killer’s Shadow is a terrifying and essential exploration of the criminal personality  in the vile grip of extremism and what happens when rage-filled speech evolves into deadly action and hatred of the “other” is allowed full reign.

My thoughts: If you like books about criminal profilers from the FBI, and the seriously twisted killers they are after, this book fits the bill. Back in the mid 1970s, profiling was just beginning to get a start, with it getting a chance to be used outside the FBI by other agencies. This case would help to highlight its effectiveness and bring it more into use, if all went well as John Douglas took off to try and help catch the guy who’d been shooting people at random all over the country. His name was Joseph Paul Franklin, but he also used many false names as well.

Profiler Douglas had been requested to assist police as things got bad, with Franklin randomly killing minority folks and mixed couples, showing his hatred for non-whites. He would even go after prominent white people, if he felt his reasons were good enough like when he wrote his letter to President Carter. He also wanted to show how he felt about Jewish people as well, so he began targeting them too. Franklin grew up with a lot of mistreatment and he wanted to let out his anger and rage when he felt like it. Abusing his wives wasn’t enough. He had this “mission” that he had come up with to kill as many of his targeted types of people as he could, and he was going to follow it through. Franklin became fairly proficient at robbing banks to keep himself going while he was on his mission. I found it to be an excellent look at a not too well known killer who was active in the 70s for 3 years. The case helped bring profiling into the mainstream as it helped them narrow down who to look at more, and who could be ruled out. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, authors John Douglas & Mark Olshaker, and the publisher.

Publisher: Dey Street Books – 304 pages
Published: Nov 17th, 2020
My rating: 5/5 STARS

About the Author
John Douglas, the legendary FBI criminal profiler and veteran author of true crime books, has spent over twenty-five years researching and culling the stories of America’s most disturbing criminals. A veteran of the United States Air Force, he has directly worked and/or had overall supervision in over 5,000 violent crime cases over the past 48 years. He is currently chairman of the board of the “Cold Case Foundation.” One of the foremost experts and investigators of criminal minds and motivations, he currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area.

Mark Olshaker is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and author of ten nonfiction books and five novels, including Einstein’s Brain and The Edge. His books with former FBI Special Agent and criminal profiling pioneer John Douglas, beginning with Mindhunter and, most recently, Law & Disorder, have sold millions of copies and have been translated into many languages. Mindhunter is now a dramatic series on Netflix, directed by David Fincher. He and his wife Carolyn, an attorney, live in Washington, D.C.

BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ Juror Number 2

Juror Number 2: The Story of a Murder, the Agony of a Neighborhood

By Efrem Sigel


This riveting memoir recounts the author’s experience on a jury in a murder trial and his subsequent investigation of the conditions in East Harlem that led young people to be involved in drug-selling and criminal activity. Besides the trial itself, the book is the story of the failures in NYCHA housing projects, the schools and the criminal justice system, and the efforts of a handful of educators, nonprofit leaders and criminal justice reformers to find pathways to success for these young people.

In the author’s words, “As a juror in a criminal trial, your vote is one of 12 determining whether the accused goes free or is punished. When the charge is murder, you never forget that a decision to convict can take away his liberty for the rest of his life. I had thought that our jury’s vote at the conclusion of the trial would be the end of the story. But I was mistaken. For me the jury verdict was only the beginning.”

My thoughts: This book was easy to get into, as I like books about court trials most of the time anyway, and I enjoyed the author’s perspective on this case and the different people involved in it. You could tell that he was way more involved in it than most people, although going through that would affect anyone, really. I took a class on courts as an older teen that required us to go to a nearby courthouse where we sat in on part of a murder trial, and I found it fascinating. It’s stuck with me ever since.

The author, Efrem Sigel, cannot leave the trial behind him afterward. He embarks on a mission to learn about the places and systems involved in the case and starts frequenting them to see what he can learn about how they prepare children or don’t. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Efrem Sigel, and the publisher.

Publisher: IBPA Members’ Titles – 146 pages
Publication: Nov 16th, 2020
My rating: 3/5 STARS

About the Author– Sigel is the author of two published novels and more than 30 published short stories and memoirs. Of his most recent novel, The Disappearance, Booklist said: The story takes place over the course of about a year and it is gripping, emotional, and tender. Sigel is clearly a talented storyteller, and the novel has a deep emotional core that will resonate with any reader. Publishers Weekly called The Disappearance powerful and elegantly crafted. People Magazine gave it 3 and a half stars. Sigel is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School; was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ivory Coast, and started and ran two business information companies. He lives in New York, where he helps direct pro bono consulting projects to nonprofits in the field of education, through the Harvard Business School Club of NY. He is on the board of Futures and Options, a nonprofit devoted to career development and education for urban youth.


100 Ways to Be Kind: Everyday actions to change your life and save the world

by Theresa Cheung


Acts of everyday kindness can boost your mood and immunity, lower blood pressure, ease anxiety, slow the ageing process, improve the quality of your relationships (including the one you have with yourself) and give you a sense of deep meaning and purpose.

100 Ways to be Kind is a road map of practical, simple and immediately actionable ways to be kind including how to be kinder to yourself, to others and to nature.

Theresa debunks the damaging myth that being kind is a weakness and shows that it is not anger or aggression that brings out our true inner grit, but kindness.

Science has proven that there are powerful, potentially lifesaving reasons to be kind. The kinder you are, the more likely you are to experience happiness

Kindness is the simple and scientifically proven remedy that everyone needs to administer right now. So, if you want to harness the power of kindness to transform your life and help save the world at the same time but aren’t quite sure how – this book is for you.

My thoughts: This isn’t the usual sort of non-fiction that I read. My tastes run more to true crime and WWII, but this book called to me, as it seemed so timely. There is quite a lot more to it than I had supposed when I first looked at it, and I was surprised at the well-researched aspects. We’ve surely had enough of it’s opposite in the news and in the world, tossed around freely. It couldn’t hurt for more of us to try some of this in our daily lives. I found it an interesting read, good ideas with so much thought behind them. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Theresa Cheung, and the publisher.

Publisher: Thread Books – 220 pages
Publication: Sep 11th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 STARS

About the author– Theresa Cheung is a Sunday Times bestselling paranormal and spiritual author. Since leaving King’s college, Cambridge University with a degree in English and Theology she has written numerous bestselling books and encyclopaedias which have been translated into dozens of different languages. She runs a popular author page on Facebook, has appeared on ITV Good morning to discuss spirituality with Piers Morgan, been a guest on episode 71 of Russell Brand’s Under the Skin podcast, written many features for the National press and been a guest on many podcasts. Her mission is to make spirituality more credible, engaging and mainstream.

BOOK REVIEW (ARC) ~ Father-ish

Father-ish: Laugh-Out-Loud Tales From a Dad Trying Not to Ruin His Kids’ Lives

Father·ish:  adjective. When a man is trying his best .

Clint Edwards equates fatherhood to the time he did an important live TV interview from home: To the viewers, he looked put-together in a nice button-up shirt . . . but below the camera he wasn’t wearing any pants. And it may have looked like he was in a nice office, but he was in fact hidden in his bedroom closet because his whole house was too messy to show.

This highly relatable collection gets to the heart of parenting: all those unexpected fails, awkward conversations, and well-intentioned little white lies. Clint chronicles all these things and more with stories like “The Time My Son Realized I Was Santa,” “I’ve Never Been to Hell, but I Have Been to a Little Girl’s Birthday Party,” and “How to Get the Sex Talk Very, Very Wrong.” And with each story you’ll see over and over again that there really aren’t any rules when it comes to parenting, and all you can do is try your best

Whether you’re a first-time parent unaware of what you’ve gotten yourself into yet, or a father of five, clinging to your last ounce of sanity, you’ll find relief in knowing that at end of the day, we’re all not wearing any pants.

My thoughts: This is my first exposure to this author’s work in Father-ish, a book made of stories of being a male parent. Edwards writes about it in a wry, humorous way that many can relate to. The stories are all along those lines, about situations between him and his family, how he manages and deals with fatherhood, and how oftentimes, those very things leave him wondering how he’s doing as a dad.

There are many personal scenarios pulled from his personal life with his wife and kids, and he has a great way of expressing them in ways that are funny. I caught myself laughing out loud more than I expected. If you like this type of humor and topic, you should check out his writing here, and also his blog. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Clint Edwards, and the publisher.

Publisher: Page Street Publishing – 272 pages
Publication: Oct 2nd, 2020
My rating: 4/5 STARS

About the Author– Clint Edwards is the creator of the daddy blog No Idea What I’m Doing. He is a staff writer for Scary Mommy and a parenting contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post. He has been featured on Good Morning America, the Today show and The View. He lives in Oregon with his wife and three children.