Native Country of the Heart

Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

This was an interesting memoir about growing up in a Mexican/American family in the US with a strong mother Elvira, also called Vera. Elvira tells of being hired out with her siblings by their father as a child to pick cotton in California in Imperial Valley. A mother-daughter story where the mother has quite a history as the backbone of the family for decades in both Mexico and America. It also tells of the author, Cherrie Moraga’s, journey as a lesbian in that culture as she found her voice and began speaking out and getting involved in different issues. Then there are some problems many have as their parents’ age but perhaps handled in her mother’s unusual fashion at first. I found it to be an involving enough read and learned enough on a number of topics to make it worthwhile, figuring that others would like it also. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Cherrie Moraga, and the publisher for my fair review.


Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux – 256 pages
Published: April 2nd, 2019

RATED: 3.5/5 Stars

The Author- Cherríe Moraga is a writer and cultural activist whose work serves to disrupt the dominant narratives of gender, race, sexuality, feminism, indigeneity, and literature in the United States. A co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, Moraga co-edited the highly influential volume This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color in 1981. After twenty years as an Artist-in-Residence in Theater at Stanford University, Moraga was appointed a professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2018, where, with her artistic partner Celia Herrera Rodríguez, she instituted Las Maestras Center for Xicana Indigenous Thought and Art Practice. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Theatre Playwriting Fellowship Award and a United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature.

Murder by the Book

Murder by the Book: The Crime That Shocked Dickens’s London

This book is set in 1840’s London and starts out discussing the murder of Lord William Russell in his Norfolk Street home after he retires to bed for the night to do some reading. He is found the next morning by his servant with his head gaping open from the blow of an ax which has been left nearby. There is evidence of coins and a watch taken, among other things. Lord William had previously complained of a locket with his late wife’s picture inside going missing, that he carried all the time. A doctor is sent for, along with the police, and an investigation is begun. There is also a running commentary with certain authors of the day such as William Ainsworth and Charles Dickens about a couple of their books involving criminal characters, and whether or not they encourage people to commit crimes after reading the books or seeing them acted in plays, as some folks have claimed. Kind of like the debate about violent movies and video games today, and whether they play a part in people committing crimes later after viewing them.

The book is very detailed and gives a lot of connected side information to kind of flesh out the story from just the actual murder. There is also a lot of supposition of various ways the crime might have happened, and who else might have been involved also. It turned out to be a decent true crime book for this time period. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Claire Harman, and the publisher for my fair review.


Publisher: Knopf – 272 pages
Published: March 26th, 2019
RATED: 3.5/5 Stars

The AuthorCLAIRE HARMAN is the author of Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart; Sylvia Townsend Warner, for which she won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; biographies of Fanny Burney and Robert Louis Stevenson; and Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a frequent reviewer. She divides her time between New York City and Oxford, England.

Drug Warrior

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

DEA agent Riley has been busting drug dealers since he started working his way up in the ranks to the number two position. His targets have grown along with his talent and ambition. For a long time now, he has been after the worst of the dealers flooding our country with all kinds of drugs, El Chapo. He became the #1 after Pablo Escobar was taken down. This was a good paced read following his different assignments as he moved through the DEA, always with one goal in mind, to get El Chapo. A great read for anyone interested in true crime or law enforcement.


A very good history on the huge influx of drugs coming into the US, simply shocking the numbers! I knew it was bad, but this was just stunning. Marijuana by the train car load. Tons of it. And that’s the just the mild stuff. It’s mind-boggling. The heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are another story. Riley had an amazing 32-year career with the DEA and his book is quite a read. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Jack Riley, and the publisher for my fair review.

Publisher: Hachette Books – 272 pages
Publication: Feb 19th, 2019

RATING: 5/5 Stars

The Authors– John “Jack” Riley spent his DEA career combating Mexican and Colombian cartels and drug-related gang violence. At the time of his retirement, Riley was the highest ranking career Special Agent at the DEA, serving as the organization’s second in command, overseeing global drug enforcement efforts. 

Mitch Weiss is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist currently working for the Associated Press. Over the last 25 years, he has investigated government corruption, white-collar crime, police misconduct, and clerical sexual abuse. His books include Tiger Force and The Heart of Hell: The Untold Story of Courage and Sacrifice in the Shadow of Iwo Jima.

Behind the Murder Curtain

Behind the Murder Curtain: Special Agent Bruce Sackman Hunts Doctors and Nurses Who Kill Patients

This is a quickly paced book that I really enjoyed about a man who finds himself having to learn about investigating killers in the Veteran’s Administration hospitals that he is responsible for keeping crime covered in. When he’s made aware of a serial killer named Swango, he gets in gear to check it out and learn what he has to do to catch him and put him in check and prove the cases against him.

I’d read about the Swango case years ago, and this book interested me on how the author set up his protocol for catching him and any other Medical Serial Killers (MSK) like him in the future, and the program he used to log in the data that helped him do it. He also had teams of great people that helped him too, and Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Baden helped out and taught him a lot and got him going in the beginning, along with Dr. Rieders, who handed the toxicology testing. It goes on to tell about other cases they investigated such as Kristen Gilbert, Charles Cullen, Richard Williams, and Paul Kornak.

This is like a medical thriller with a serial killer but with multiple cases all through this guy’s career. It’s better than fiction. It’s one of my favorite kinds of books, where the good guy goes up against the bad guy (or gal) and catches them so they can’t kill anyone again. And these are our veterans these killers are murdering! So that makes it even worse, in my estimation. I found this to be a very good biography and true crime read if you like either of those categories or medical stuff. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Bruce Sackman, and the publisher for my fair review.

Publisher: BooksGoSocial. 204 pages
Publication: Sep 20th, 2018

The AuthorBruce Sackman served as the Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division, Northeast Field Office until May 2005 when he retired after 32 years’ service. In this capacity, he was responsible for all major criminal investigations involving the VA from West Virginia to Maine. During his tenure, he was involved in hundreds of investigations involving allegations of fraud, corruption, false claims, thefts, patient assaults, pharmaceutical drug diversions, and suspicious hospital deaths. He was also responsible for supervising the successful investigation of the nation’s first homicide conviction in connection with pharmaceutical research. His cases have been featured on the Discovery Health Channel, CNN, MSNBC, America’s Most Wanted, and on Home Box Office. He is the recipient of many awards for his investigations and for his efforts in encouraging the profession of forensic nursing. Sackman has lectured at several forensic-related conferences, state police organizations, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, universities, and medical related symposia.

Sackman is self-employed as a licensed private investigator in New York City specializing in healthcare-related matters. Under contract, he directs all major investigations for a major New York metropolitan regional healthcare system. He is president of the Society of Professional Investigators in New York City and serves on the board of directors of the American Academy for Professional Law Enforcement.


Pathological: The Murderous Rage of Dr. Anthony Garcia

“And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
– William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

This was an unusual and gruesome case about a serial killer in 2008 Omaha who turned out to have a crazy ~ nasty motive once they learned it. The book was good, following the cases along with investigator Derek Mois and others trying to find out who caused the murders that were so brutal and undeserved. Who stabs to death an innocent 11-year-old boy and a housekeeper? And why? He’s not done either. It holds the interest well as the pieces come out bit by bit. A very good true crime case for those who like this kind of book. One note I’d like to make when a main person in the book has a name with a questionable way of saying it, it’s nice to give the proper pronunciation to readers when they are going to continuously run into it all the way through the book. That did bug me a bit on this one. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, authors Henry Cordes & Todd Cooper, and the publisher for my fair review.

Publisher:  WildBlue Press.  230 pages
Publication: Dec 18th, 2018

RATED: 4/5 Stars

The AuthorHenry J. Cordes is an award-winning journalist in Omaha, Nebraska who has written several non-fiction books documenting stories in his native state. His most recent, 2018’s “Pathological,” tells the story of a doctor-turned-serial killer and his thirst for revenge against colleagues he believed short-circuited his career, and of the determined detectives who stopped him just before he killed again. Cordes previously wrote two books documenting the University of Nebraska’s national championship football teams, “Unbeatable: Tom Osborne and the Greatest Era of Nebraska Football” (2012) and “Devaney: Birth of a Dynasty” (2014). Cordes lives in Omaha and continues to work as a senior staff writer for the Omaha World-Herald.

Stone Free


Stone Free: Jimi Hendrix in London, September 1966-June 1967

In many respects, Jimi changed the sound of rock far more than the Beatles. You know, they brought songwriting to rock and roll, but Jimi changed the sound of the guitar.

— Pete Townshend

This is a great book for most any Jimi Hendrix fan, it focuses on the nine month period of time when he went to London and really changed the entire trajectory of his career. He worked his behind off developing everything from his wardrobe, his performing skills, expressing himself vocally, etc. Making use of every moment he morphed himself from a backup player to the headlining star he was meant to be. He got a bass player and a drummer, Noel Redding, and John “Mitch” Mitchell, and formed a trio, Jimi Hendrix and the Experience, and they rehearsed some songs until they felt they were ready to go on stage as an opener for another group. This is how he developed himself into a full act, moving from the back of the stage to the front. Then Chas Chandler, formerly of the group The Animals, along with Animals manager Mike Jeffery, who’d gotten Hendrix to go to London in the first place, and were co-managing him, got the band some work in France, Germany and in England to give them the experience they needed.

In October 1966 Chandler also got the band their first studio recording session for “Hey Joe”. Hendrix was still uncertain about his singing voice and wanted to bury the vocals under the music. Chandler wouldn’t allow it though and made Jimi turn the volume back down. Once he got that song down, they needed a song for the B side and Jimi was told he needed to write his own songs in order to get publishing royalties. So, no problem, Hendrix transitions from player to player/songwriter, boom. “He had attempted writing songs before, but the true flowering of Jimi Hendrix, composer, occurred after his move into Hyde Park Towers.” “Stone Free” was his first official composition for the Experience, written in the Hyde Park Towers a day or two after the initial “Hey Joe” session. Soon after, he was playing it in clubs and recording it. Other songs soon followed. Jimi also jammed with lots of other artists, many of whom were world famous names like Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, etc. His very shy, polite manner made him easy to get along with.

The book follows him through that whole period of time, as he transforms from a veritable unknown to someone everyone has heard of and are eagerly awaiting his show back in the US. My thanks for the electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Jas Obrecht, and the publisher for my fair review.

University of North Carolina Press   256 pages
Pub: Nov 12th, 2018

RATED:  4/5 Stars


The Author– Jas Obrecht is an award-winning music journalist and former editor of Guitar Player magazine. He has written for Rolling Stone, Living Blues, and many other publications. His many books include Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

There Are Worse Things I Could Do

There Are Worse Things I Could Do by Adrienne Barbeau

Written by young Adrienne Barbeau January 5, 1960: Excerpt from ninth grade term paper entitled To Be or Not to Be: Acting as a Vocation. “Corny as this may sound, I’ve wanted to act ever since as far back as I can remember. I’ve had to act to get attention, and I’ve never thought of myself as anything else. For that matter, neither has anyone else.

I also realize that there is very little chance of my ever making the big time. But for my own personal reasons I wish to continue down the path to stardom for, if nothing else, just the experience.”

I spent quite a bit of time on a good review of this book and I’ve got a few people already awaiting it. So of course when it was nearly ready, our new kitten dodged across my keyboard and deleted all but the opening quote somehow. I’m still not sure how she managed that. It took a few minutes for the horror to sink in. Finally, I gave up and started rewriting the whole thing. So, here it is, once again.

The only thing I remember this actress from is the TV series Maude, which ran from 1972-1978, in which she played the part of Maude’s (Beatrice Arthur) divorced daughter, Carol. I was curious to know more about her, so I picked up this memoir to satisfy that curiosity. She started writing journals from fifth grade on, so she had lots to draw from, and there is plenty of humor.

I learned that she went to college and started out the hard way doing theater and taking singing and acting classes while trying to support herself in New York. I know she got rather popular after she started getting recognized on the street once she was appearing on Maude for a while, but not in anything that caught my teenage attention. She had previously acted in stage plays, TV shows, and films, but it was things like the original play Grease in the part of Rizzo, and Fiddler on the Roof playing a couple of different parts through the years. She played in the movie Swamp Thing and developed a reputation as a scream queen. She was married to director John Carpenter for a time, with whom she had a son and he directed her in The Fog and later on in Escape From New York. I’m now tempted to check out some of her movies, I know I’ve seen Escape before, so it certainly needs a rewatch. 

She shared about her family and friends, and also about her love relationships along the way. There was quite an interesting little fling with Burt Reynolds, who recently passed away. She was always busy, always working hard towards her goals and had a very eclectic career, doing everything from nude theater, acting with rats, to dancing with a snake. Later on, she was known for having twin boys at age 51, which was pretty amazing at the time especially. She did quite a bit of singing too, releasing an album and is now the author 3 novels in addition to this work. This memoir was a really decent read that many would enjoy if they are into memoirs or the entertainment business.

Originally published in 2006 and updated in 2017, I purchased this ebook on Kindle. Published by BooksBnimble

Rating:  Somewhere between a 3.75 and 4/5 Stars


An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere

An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere

This is the story of missing man Rey Rivera, a very tall guy who’d been supposed to finish work on putting together a video project for his boss. He never even showed up for the rented production booth space to finalize it that he’d paid for. The author became interested when some missing posters were spotted around the area in New York, first a few and then many. They described Rivera and gave information on who to contact. Then in the story, the Belvedere is explored, a former gem of a hotel that has been turned into modern day apartments or condos of sorts for private residents, and some of the larger spaces were leased out to businesses too. Rivera’s body is eventually discovered at the Belvedere, nearly a week after he went missing, a supposed suicide by jumping off the roof. He apparently crashed through what used to be the roof of the pool before but had been turned into business space that had recently become vacated. Author Mikita Brottman happened to live in the Belvedere and spent nearly ten years on this project, apparently quite driven by the story and unsatisfied by the “undetermined” cause of death the coroner gave. She knew that the police wouldn’t investigate it because of that, and felt the man deserved more of an answer and that there was a good chance that he may have been murdered.

An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley, author Mikita Brottman, and the publisher for my fair review.

Henry Holt & Company 288 pages
Pub: date: Nov. 6th, 2018

RATING: 4 /5 Stars

The Author—   Mikita Brottman is a writer and a professor in the Department of Humanistic Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art in downtown Baltimore. She is also a certified psychoanalyst and runs a true crime podcast called Forensic Transmissions. She lives in the old Belvedere Hotel in Mount Vernon, Baltimore, with her partner, David, and French bulldog, Oliver. @MikitaBrottman |


INCONVENIENCE GONE: The Short Tragic Life Of Brandon Sims

Inconvenience Gone: The Short Tragic Life of Brandon Sims

This is quite a case about a young single mother, Michelle Engron Jones, 21, who killed her little boy, Brandon Sims, 4 years old. They lived in Indianapolis, Indiana and she had a good job. By the time it was even discovered that Brandon was missing by his father, Kevin Sims, apparently, Brandon had been missing for quite a period of time. Kevin had been in jail for a while and had no way to know this, as he and Michelle were broken up before he went in. Michelle had been telling her friends various stories for some time. Some were told that Brandon was with his father and a new wife. Others were told that Brandon was with his loving grandmother, Arlene Blevins in another state.

Michelle Jones checked herself into Midtown Mental Health, suddenly saying that she was all stressed out (about the time her baby daddy was looking for their son.) That’s when authorities were called to come and interview her at the facility after she’d been given something to calm her down and it was allowed to wear off some. Sgt. Mike Crooke started investigating in January of 1994, and Brandon had been missing for like 3 years, so they were seriously behind in their search. Michelle was interviewed at Midtown, she described having left her 4-year-old son alone in her apartment for several days and coming back to find him dead.

She claimed a ‘mental breakdown’ over having to tell her friends about her son’s death. She spoke about leaving Brandon’s body alongside a road, and Crooke got her to agree to go with him the next morning and show him where. When Sgt. Crooke arrived the next morning, Michelle Jones informed him through the nurse that she’d hired a lawyer and now refused to speak to him further. This was a really sad case with no winners to be found, really heartbreaking. Just a violent true crime case of abuse and murder. It is an interesting story of a fairly new prosecutor going to bat and trying a case without a body for murder and neglect in Indiana. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Diane Marger Moore, and the publisher for my fair review.

WildBlue Press   267pages
Pub: Oct 23rd

RATED: 4/5 Stars

The Author —
Diane Marger Moore continues to practice law with a national civil trial firm

Darker than Night

Darker Than Night: The True Story of a Brutal Double Homicide and an 18-Year-Long Quest for Justice

I’d read this in probably 2007 or so and was horrified by the story, having grown up in the same part of Michigan. I’d gone hunting with my dad as a kid in those areas, and my ex and all of our friends all went hunting every fall. This is a part of my culture, basically. The guys that work hard all year and look forward to deer season and their time to gather up their gear and get together with their buddies.

They hit the road and head “up North”, usually meaning northern Lower Michigan to a motel or someone’s cabin somewhere, for a weekend or if they are really lucky a week or more of deer hunting. Of course, for many, this may involve more partying and boozing than actual stalking through the woods and spending time in a blind awaiting that score of a buck or doe. Perhaps it may be mostly spent in a roadside honky-tonk or dive bar in some small town you’d just as soon never see again and the only thing you bag is a hangover.

But usually there are good times to remember at the end of the trip, and funny stories to tell when its over. Not 911 calls, and upset families filing missing person’s reports, wondering why loved ones never arrived at their destinations. That’s nearly unthinkable to imagine having to go through. Let alone the torture of wondering for all of those years too what happened and where they are. The vehicle was never even found.

This story is simply beyond the pale. It’s even difficult to read at times and should come with a trigger warning because of extreme violence. Yet the story still needs to be told because people such as the Duvall brothers exist out there and we need to be aware of and on guard against others like them.

When I was recently writing to a couple of ladies on a blog and we were talking about their new podcast about Michigan Murders and Mayhem and the first story was to be about a couple of hunters who disappeared on a hunting trip long ago, I knew instantly that it was this same case. It has stayed with me all of these years very vividly since reading about it, and sure enough, it was. The disappearance of David Tyll and Brian Ognjan. I hope the victim’s families are doing ok after all these years, though I’m sure it’s still hard. The book was good and explained the case, the convictions and all that. A worthwhile read that shares the case in gruesome detail.  So be warned, it’s really bad as far as that goes. It’s a hard read.  Simply unforgettable.

The author– TOM HENDERSON, a native of Michigan, has worked as a news reporter for many years. He has been a columnist for Detroit Free Press, a freelance writer for Detroit News, and has been a Senior Editor for a monthly business publication called Corporate Detroit. He is the author of A DEADLY AFFAIR and BLOOD JUSTICE.

RATED:  4/5 Stars