This blog is the place where I post reviews of the books I have read. I review audiobooks, regular books and eBooks for authors and publishers as well as any other book or audiobook that catches my eye.
In the tradition of Cheryl Strayed’s “WILD“, the gritty, funny, achingly honest story of a young climber’s struggle to become whole by testing herself on mountains and life.
As a young teenager, Jan Redford runs away from a cottage where her father has just put her down for the zillionth time and throws herself against a 100-foot cliff face. Somewhere in that shaky, outraged kid is a bedrock belief in her right to exist, which carries her to the top. In that brief flash of victory, she sets her sights on becoming a climber.
Falling in love with climbing eventually leads to falling in love with the climbers in her tight-knit western Canadian climbing community. It also means that the people she loves regularly vanish in an instant, caught in an avalanche or by a split second of inattention. It almost crushes Jan when her boyfriend, the gifted climber Dan Guthrie, is killed. Instead of marrying Dan, she marries one of his best friends, a driven climber who was there for her when she was grieving and becomes the father of her two children. Not what either of them planned.
End of the Rope is raw and real. Mountains challenge Jan, marriage almost annihilates her, and motherhood could have been the last straw…but it isn’t.
How she climbs out of the hole she digs for herself is as thrilling and inspiring as any of her climbs–and just as much an act of bravery.
Upon initial perusal of END OF THE ROPE, potential readers may think the same as I originally thought: with a subtitle like Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood, I expected this to be one of those annoying books about a woman whose life is perfect; one who has it all, and who is now going to “teach” readers how they too can have it all and become the perfect “Super-Mom.” YUCK!!! (Plus, I call Bullshit on those people – I think they are full of crap.)
On the surface, potential readers might think that if END OF THE ROPE isn’t about being a “Super Mom” then it must be about mountain climbing, and only mountain climbing. Wrong again, this is definitely not the case.
Yes. It does contain quite a few mountain and mountain climbing stories, as well as some of the multitude of accomplishments of the author – female Canadian climber, Jan Redford.
This surprising and engaging memoir is so much more than just a story of mountain climbing, and so much more interesting.
Jan Redford tells the story of her life so far; a life that has been anything but normal, and anything but easy.
Jan Redford learned to climb after high school, in Wyoming at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). She writes about her time at NOLS at the age of eighteen that: “I felt like I’d been sleepwalking through my life, and climbing propped open my eyes. Made me fully alive.” She knew from then on that Climbing would be a large part of her existence for the rest of her life.
While Jan Redford’s life did revolve for many years around her climbing and the climbing “lifestyle,” Jan is much more than just a climber.
In reality, this is a memoir about growing up in a highly dysfunctional family – one that presented the image of perfection to those around them. That outer, superficial image of the perfect family was a sham. Jan’s father was an alcoholic and her mother, although physically present, was emotionally absent. The entire family lived in an atmosphere which required everyone to ‘walk on eggshells’ lest they pull the pin on the ticking time bomb that was the family patriarch. Who could blame Jan for wanting to run away as far, and as fast as possible?
Climbing was the escape that offered Jan not only a way out, but also a way forward. The West Coast of Canada offers amazingly scenic mountain ranges and a large, insular community of like-minded individuals. It was in this climbing community Jan found her home and her people.
Tales of the antics of her youthful indescretions will have the reader fondly remembering their own youth capers.
END OF THE ROPE is a story of running away and finding yourself. Falling in lust. Challenging yourself. Finding your soulmate and losing him to the mountains you both lived.
It is a tale of being hurt down to the core of your soul, digging deep and doing what is right for you; no matter what other people think or say.
As it states in the subtitle, this book is about Mountains, Motherhood and Marriage. Each of these three M’s will bring Jan joy and happiness as well as unspeakable pain and sorrow.
END OF THE ROPE is a memoir not to be missed.
Any book that can cause me to laugh out loud, snort in disbelief and/or exasperation, as well as have me in tears is a book that I will not soon forget. END OF THE ROPE did all of these things to me, and more. Because of this, I would be doing a disservice to potential readers to rate this book as anything lower than 5 OUT OF 5 STARS. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Jan Redford may be an awesome mountain climber, but she is an even better writer.
In August 2020, the Paperback version of this book is being released. It can be pre-ordered now at your favorite bookstore.
I would love to hear back from any of you that go on to read END OF THE ROPE. After you finish reading it, come back here to let me know what you thought.
JAN REDFORD is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU and holds a master’s in creative writing from UBC.
Her stories, articles, and personal essays have been published in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Mountain Life, Explore, Catapult, LitHub, and anthologies and have won or been shortlisted in several writing contests.
She lives with her family in Squamish, BC, where she mountain bikes, trail runs, climbs, and skis.
Her memoir, End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood is her first book.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.
Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.
Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement.
Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations.
Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can’t stop running and moves restlessly from job to job—through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps—trying to outrun his memories and his addiction.
Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together.
After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew.
With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.
FIVE LITTLE INDIANS is a book that everyone in North America needs to read. This may be Fiction, but it is based in reality and the five main characters are a great representation of what happened to the Indigenous children who were forced to attend Residential Schools.
These Residential Schools are a shameful part of Canada’s past and the harm they caused has resonated through multiple generations. That pain is still being felt by Indigenous People to this day. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is attempting to compensate the victims, and to tell their stories, but the hurt and victimization runs deep.
This novel concentrates on a handful of children, all of whom attended the same residential school. It follows them throughout their lives and readers are taken along for the ride.
The difference between this book and the various others that have been published is that FIVE LITTLE INDIANS focuses mainly on what happens to the children once they leave the Residential School system.
As each child reaches the age of release, they are given nothing but a bus ticket to Vancouver. Arriving in the city is sensory overload for these teenagers who have only ever lived either on remote reserves or at the school. I can only imagine how confused and scared they must have been.
It is amazing to me that any of them survived, but, as is demonstrated in the book, there is a huge difference between surviving and thriving.
With succinct yet heartfelt prose, readers will feel a fraction of the pain of the characters in the book, and even though it is only a fraction, it is enough to bring the reader to tears. (I am not ashamed to say that it made me cry.)
Although there are moments of unbelievable sadness and flashes of rage and violence, the story also contains momentous instances of love and inspiring occassions of spirituality. It is during these amazing and wonderous moments that the reader’s heart will soar alongside that of the characters.
I hope to read more books by Michelle Good in the near future. I would like it if she wrote about the generation of children who came from the Residential School Survivors and how their parents and grandparents traumatic experiences affects generation after generation.
I would be doing the world a great disservice if I was to rate FIVE LITTLE INDIANS as anything less than 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I urge every Canadian to purchase a copy of FIVE LITTLE INDIANS asap.
It is imperative that we educate ourselves and our children about our country’s past – including the shameful parts.
It is by acknowledging the harm done that we can learn from it so that these mistakes are never repeated.
In addition to avoiding past mistakes, it is my hope that books such as this one will help to foster a better, less adversarial relationship between Indigenous Peoples and other ethnicities.
Prior to signing treaty, Chief Wuttunee (Porcupine) and his CREE band hunted and fished along the Battle River, and as settlers moved into the Battleford region where they conducted trade.
Though Wuttunee was chief at the signing of TREATY 6 on September 9, 1876, he was not in favour of the treaty and appointed his brother Red Pheasant to sign for him.
The department recognized Red Pheasant as the band’s chief from that point. In 1878 the band settled on their reserve in the Eagle Hills, where the land was good and there was enough forest to enable them to hunt.
Red Pheasant day school opened in 1880, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church was built in 1885 on land set aside for that purpose when the reserve was surveyed.
The reserve is located 33 km south of NORTH BATTLEFORD, with an infrastructure that includes a band office, band hall, school and teacherage, public works building, fire hall, and a treatment centre.
The main economic base is agriculture, but the reserve hosts a band-owned grocery store, and in 1997 the band signed an oil and gas agreement with Wascana Energy Inc.
The band’s successful completion of a Treaty Land Entitlement Agreement has enabled them to increase their reserve’s size to 29,345.7 ha, and invest in furthering economic development.
The band has 1,893 registered members, 608 of whom live on the reserve.
Twelve-year-old Emily Calby was a good girl from a religious family in rural Georgia. She loved softball, her little sister and looking up words to get her allowance. Then two men came and murdered her family. Somehow Emily escaped. Only the killers know she survived.
On the run in a fugue, she makes an unlikely ally in a ruthless former gang member who takes her in. Overwhelmed by guilt, she persuades him to train her to kill before setting out alone on a terrifying search for justice.
Nothing will stop her—not cops or creeps, not even her own splintering mind. Through it all, Emily fights to hold onto hope and the girl she once knew, kept buried deep inside.
A testament to the boundless limits of love, sacrifice and will to survive, The Hiding Girl is the first book in the Emily Calby Series.
Twelve year old Emily Calby is desperate, scared, and all alone. She’s on the run from the men who tortured and killed her entire family; men from whom she just barely escaped.
Emily is a white girl, with blonde hair who grew up in a middle class family and who has never had to experience racism or classism. Even though she has never thought of herself as privileged, she starts to realize just how good she had it when she meets Lucas.
Lucas is an adult, black male who lives in a poverty stricken neighborhood that experiences way too much gang violence. A previous gang member himself, Lucas knows exactly how dangerous it can be for a young, white girl to be homeless in the city. Despite his reservations, Lucas takes Emily under his wing. (This relationship is a huge part of the plot, but the way the two met and his decision to befriend Emily is extremely far-fetched. I reduced the number of stars I gave THE HIDING GIRL because of this.)
Emily is terrified that the two men from whom she had barely escaped will track her down and finish what they started. Because of this, she convinces Lucas to teach her how to kill.
Readers learn about Lucas and his past, including the fact that he used to be in a gang, and he also talks about the death of someone close to him. It is this death that is used to explain why Emily keeps seeing teddy bears attached to hydro poles in his neighborhood. The inclusion of this tidbit is based on fact. Author Dorian Box has seen these Memorial Teddy Bears in real life.
This book is a testament to the resiliency of youth, as well as the power of fear, grief, and a hunger for justice. I enjoyed the inclusion of the conversations between characters in regard to exactly what is justice, and who has the right to extract that justice. Emily must decide whether she is willing to kill the monsters who had obliterated her entire family.
There are a multitude of social themes in this book and the plot has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. It is an enjoyable story with characters you will come to love.
THE HIDING GIRL is the first book in a brand new EMILY CALBY SERIES. The second book is due for release within the year.
I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
*** Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
I feel that I have to mention and give kudos to @Herabooks
Hera is a FEMALE-LED Publisher.
It is about time that women were not only in positions of power, but are also the owners and CEOs. I have bookmarked and am following Hera Books.
It is important to me to celebrate and support women-led Indie businesses, especially in this unprecedented time in history when everyone on the planet is trying to #flattenthecurve and to #eradicate #Covid19
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
“Dorian Box” is a professor and author of eight nonfiction books, one an Amazon Editors’ Favorite Book of the Year.
Psycho-Tropics, his first novel, received a Writer’s Digest Award in Genre Fiction.
Kirkus called it “[a]n engaging thriller with plenty of humor, good characterization, and a memorable villain ….”
The Writer’s Digest judge said, “Marrying humor with suspense is not easy, but it comes across masterfully. … A truly enjoyable read.”
His second novel, The Hiding Girl–scheduled for release on June 15, 2020–is the first entry in the Emily Calby Series, which follows twelve-year-old Emily’s perilous, traumatized life forward from the day two men invade her rural Georgia home and kill her family. The unpublished manuscript was named a semifinalist for the Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize out of more than 700 entries.
The Critic’s Report described it as: “Dark and gritty … an exceptional, heart-pounding story full of raw emotion, deep-seated fear, and an undercurrent of hope and innocence. Deeply atmospheric … without peer in contemporary mysteries/thrillers.”
Book 2 in The Emily Calby Series is also complete and Book 3 is underway.
In his regular life, Box has received numerous awards for teaching and research, written thousands, possibly millions, of scholarly footnotes, and been interviewed by sources such as National Public Radio, the PBS Newshour, and the New York Times.
Box lives out his childhood fantasies singing and playing guitar in rock cover bands that earn tens of dollars sweating it out until two a.m. in smoky dive bars.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.
Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.
Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.
This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.
“When a body goes down in Lake Tahoe, they say, it does not rise again. The frigid temperature of the lake, it’s vast depths, conspire to keep bacteria at bay. What once was human fails to decompose. Instead, the body is doomed to drift along the lake bed, in perpetual limbo; just more organic matter joining the mysterious menagerie that lives in Tahoe’s uncharted depths.”
What an incredible way to begin this suspenseful novel.
Readers of PRETTY THINGS are in for a treat. This book has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.
Oh the naivety of youth. As author JANELLE BROWN details the life of high schoolers Nina and Benny, it is easy to picture the two misfits finding each other and only after having built a foundation of friendship do they take the leap of faith into a relationship. I am positive that everyone can remember their first real relationship. It is easy to visualize the intensity of their feelings. Nina and Benny never forget each other and their puppy-love has ramifications that span decades.
Vanessa is Benny’s sister. She is the golden child to Benny’s black sheep. As a twenty-something, she becomes what all Millenials seem to aspire to, that is an Instagram Influencer. She flits through the world wearing designer clothing and is constantly posting photographs of herself on her Instagram feed.
There are so many people who post every moment of their lives online, hoping to be followed by hundreds of thousands of people. What Vanessa, as well as other Instagramers don’t seem to think about, is just who is following their feed and why.
In addition to the role the internet plays in the plot of Pretty Things, also included are characters who have grown up in extreme wealth, never having to actually work for their money. Of course there are also their polar opposites, people who have lived hand-to-mouth and the things they are willing to do to make their lives easier. Dysfunctional family dynamics, mental illness, anger, fear and greed also have their places in this twisted tale.
In PRETTY THINGS someone or maybe several someones are following people’s Instagram posts for nefarious purposes and the dangers of the internet loom large. This tale is a warning to all those who post online to be wary of what they put out on the world wide web.
The author writes with such precision and suspense that it is little wonder the film rights of this book have already been scooped up. Mega-Star Nicole Kidman has already been cast in one of the lead rolls.
With themes that everyone living in this age of Social Media can relate to, PRETTY THINGS is going to be the Number One book on Bestseller Lists for many, many weeks to come.
This book fully deserves every single one of 5 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of WATCH ME DISAPPEAR, ALL WE EVER WANTED WAS EVERYTHING, THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE and the upcoming novel PRETTY THINGS.
An essayist and journalist, her writing appears regularly in Vogue, The New York Times, Elle, Wired, Self, The Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.
Previously, she spent five years as a senior writer at Salon, covering a diverse range of subjects — from Internet culture to the war on drugs, pop culture to style, public policy issues and the digital music movement– and began her career as a staff writer at Wired, working on seminal Web sites like HotWired and Wired News during the heydey of the dotcom boom.
In the 1990’s, she was also the editor and co-founder of Maxi, an irreverent (and now, long-gone) women’s pop culture magazine.
She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, filmmaker Greg Harrison, and two children.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
Axel Scheffler has illustrated a digital book for primary school age children, free for anyone to read on screen or print out, about the coronavirus and the measures taken to control it.
Published by Nosy Crow, and written by staff within the company, the book has had expert input: Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine acted as a consultant, and the company also had advice from two head teachers and a child psychologist.
The book answers key questions in simple language appropriate for 5 to 9 year olds:
• What is the coronavirus? • How do you catch the coronavirus? • What happens if you catch the coronavirus? • Why are people worried about catching the coronavirus? • Is there a cure for the coronavirus? • Why are some places we normally go to closed? • What can I do to help? • What’s going to happen next?
Nosy Crow Press wants to make sure that this book is accessible to every child and family and so the book is offered totally free of charge to anyone who wants to read it.
Kate Wilson, Managing Director of Nosy Crow, said:
“We were very aware that many parents and carers are struggling to explain the current extraordinary situation to children, many of whom are frightened and confused. We thought that the best thing we could do would be to use our skills to produce a free book to explain and, where possible, reassure children. We asked Axel, whose work is so familiar and so loved, to illustrate it. He was happy to do it, and did it extraordinarily quickly. Meanwhile, having heard Professor Medley interviewed by the BBC, we looked him up and wrote to him, and despite his huge workload, he reviewed the book over a weekend, and we were able to incorporate his suggestions, together with those of two head teachers and a child psychologist, into the final version of the book. We hope it helps answer difficult questions in difficult times.”
Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo, said:
“I asked myself what I could do as an children’s illustrator to inform, as well as entertain, my readers here and abroad. So I was glad when my publisher, Nosy Crow, asked me to illustrate this question-and-answer book about the coronavirus. I think it is extremely important for children and families to have access to good and reliable information in this unprecedented crisis, and I hope that the popularity of the books I’ve done with Julia Donaldson will ensure that this digital book will reach many children who are now slightly older, but might still remember our picture books.”
Professor Graham Medley, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“This pandemic is changing children’s lives across the globe and will have a lasting impact on us all. Helping children understand what is going on is an important step in helping them cope and making them part of the story – this is something that we are all going through, not something being done to them. This book puts children IN the picture rather just watching it happen, and in a way that makes the scary parts easier to cope with.”
The definitive account of the most notorious street gang in America—the MS-13—as seen through the lives of gang members and their families caught in its malicious web.
The MS-13 was born from war. In the 1980s, El Salvador was enmeshed in a bloody civil conflict. To escape the guerrilla assaults and death squads, many fled to the US and settled in Los Angeles. Among them were Alex and his brother.
There, as a survival instinct, Alex and a small number of Salvadoran immigrants formed a group called the Mara Salvatrucha Stoners, a relatively harmless social network bound by heavy metal music and their Salvadoran identity. But later, as they brushed against established local gangs, the group took on a harder edge, selling drugs, stealing cars and killing rivals who threatened their territories. As authorities cracked down, gang members like Alex were incarcerated and deported. But in the prison system, the group only grew stronger, and in Central America, the gang multiplied, eventually spreading to a half-dozen nations in two continents.
Today, MS-13 is one of the most infamous street gangs on earth, with an estimated ten thousand members operating in dozens of states and linked to thousands of grisly murders each year in the US and abroad. But it is also misunderstood—less a drug cartel and more a hand-to-mouth organization whose criminal economy is based mostly on small-time extortion schemes and petty drug dealing. Journalist and longtime organized crime investigator Steven Dudley brings readers inside the nefarious group to tell a larger story of how a flawed US and Central American policy, and the exploitative and unequal economic systems helped foster the gang and sustain it. Ultimately, MS-13 is the story of the modern immigrant and the perennial battle to escape a vortex of poverty and crime, as well as the repressive, unequal systems that feed these problems.
Judges’ citation: This timely and incisive work, speaking directly to the mission and purpose of the Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards, centers on one immigrant Salvadoran family that represents the complexities of the story of Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), the notorious gang that is the U.S. government’s number one target in its efforts to rid the country of “criminal aliens.”
Without ever minimizing the brutality of this gang, the book dispels many of the myths surrounding its history and power. More important, MARA is the story of flawed U.S. and Central American policies over many years and the exploitative and unequal systems they create.
************************** TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains violent scenes, both physical and sexual, and should not be read by individuals who might find themselves triggered by vivid descriptions of violence and murder.
This book is NOT for the Faint of Heart. Please exercise caution when reading and if at any time you feel you need to stop reading, I encourage you to put this book down and walk away. **************************
MS-13 IS A CRIMINAL GANG. They are well known for their violence and brutality.
Journalist and author Steven Dudley has spent years reporting on gangs, government and violence in Central America. In writing MS-13: The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang, he has written a comprehensive account as to how MS-13 was formed and how that gang spread from Central America to the United States.
What this book achieved for me was that it dispelled the notion that MS-13 is a strictly structured unit and that there is one singular person at the top and that all other members were co-ordinated and part of a whole. This is simply not true. Each clique of MS-13 essentially acts on its own and sometimes cliques will war with other MS-13 cliques.
What does seem true of almost every MS-13 gang member, who spoke to the Author, is that that person grew up surrounded by violence and chaos, and had joined the gang (at least initially) as a way to protect themselves from outside forces.
President Donald Trump seems woefully misinformed about this gang and in fact gives them more credit than they deserve. By labelling MS-13 as Public Enemy Number One, all the President has done is that he has given potential gang recruits an additional reason for joining the gang. Many (even most) of the current MS-13 gang members living in the United States have fled their war-torn homelands to seek a better way of life. The problem is that when they arrive in the States, they realize that their lives are not much better than the lives they had fled.
MS:13 has been added to the list of Most Dangerous Gang Organizations in the United States.
I believe that anyone who wants to work with gang members on finding a new way of life should view this book as required reading. It is impossible to effect change if the history and dynamics of life as part of an MS-13 mara are not understood.
I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
It is a fascinating read, but I also need to warn potential readers that the violence and brutality detailed in this book may be triggering for some people.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steven Dudley is the co-director of InSight, a joint initiative of American University and the Fundación Ideas para la Paz in Colombia, South America, aimed at monitoring, analyzing and investigating organized crime in the Americas. Based in Washington D.C., Dudley works with a team of five investigators and various contributors throughout the region to give the public a more complete view of how organized crime works in the Americas, as well as its impact on public policy and communities from the Rio Grande to Patagonia.
Before launching InSight, he worked as the Bureau Chief for The Miami Herald in the Andean Region and wrote a book: Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia (Routledge 2004). Dudley has also reported from Haiti, Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Miami for National Public Radio, The Washington Post, and the BBC’s The World; and written feature articles for The Washington Post Magazine, The Economist, Columbia Journalism Review, The Progressive, and The Nation. His current projects include a documentary film, which aired on Colombia’s RCN Television in September 2010.
Dudley has a BA in Latin American History from Cornell University and an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese fluently. He has taught high school as well as worked in Human Rights.
His range of experience, languages and reporting skills give him the tools to perform in any environment.
Honors and Awards:
Knight Fellowship: Stanford University : In 2007, Dudley was awarded the prestigious Knight Fellowship for professional journalists.
Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Award : Dudley was part of a team that won second place for international reporting in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists at its Sunshine State Awards for a series on land mines in Latin America.
Overseas Press Club Malcolm Forbes Award for Best Business Reporting from Abroad
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
A provocative and original investigation of our cultural fascination with crime, linking four archetypes—Detective, Victim, Defender, Killer—to four true stories about women driven by obsession.
In this illuminating exploration of women, violence, and obsession, Rachel Monroe interrogates the appeal of true crime through four narratives of fixation. In the 1940s, a frustrated heiress began creating dollhouse crime scenes depicting murders, suicides, and accidental deaths. Known as the “Mother of Forensic Science,” she revolutionized the field of what was then called legal medicine. In the aftermath of the Manson Family murders, a young woman moved into Sharon Tate’s guesthouse and, over the next two decades, entwined herself with the Tate family. In the mid-nineties, a landscape architect in Brooklyn fell in love with a convicted murderer, the supposed ringleader of the West Memphis Three, through an intense series of letters. After they married, she devoted her life to getting him freed from death row. And in 2015, a teenager deeply involved in the online fandom for the Columbine killers planned a mass shooting of her own.
Each woman, Monroe argues, represents and identifies with a particular archetype that provides an entryway into true crime. Through these four cases, she traces the history of American crime through the growth of forensic science, the evolving role of victims, the Satanic Panic, the rise of online detectives, and the long shadow of the Columbine shooting. In a combination of personal narrative, reportage, and a sociological examination of violence and media in the twentieth and twenty-first century, Savage Appetites scrupulously explores empathy, justice, and the persistent appeal of violence.
Rachel Monroe is a woman after my own heart. As she described her visit to the premiere True Crime Conference called CrimeCon in 2018, I was green with envy. Living outside the city of Toronto, Ontario in Canada, there was just no feasible way for me to attend such an event, especially since it takes place quite a distance from my home.
Rachel Monroe has taken it upon herself to dig into the “why” of the appeal of True Crime to women and to explore the possible reasons.
Any female of my generation (I am 47) who are interested in this subject probably grew up reading Nancy Drew and maybe even The Hardy Boys. Rachel states that: “This detective impulse first burbled up in [her] early, say around age eight.” Reading these words, I wanted to shout out loud, “Me too!”
The book focuses on four very different women, from different times, but, who all had an interest in crime and murder. Their reasons are as varied as possible, yet they are all tied together by the singular theme of True Crime.
I couldn’t believe I had never heard of France’s Glessner Lee. Sure, she was a child of the 1890s, and grew up “… Living in a mansion on Chicago’s ‘Millionaire’s Row.” But still, she was a role model for other women in adulthood and smashed through gender barriers that would have seemed impenetrable to other women of her time. I am impressed and glad that I now know about her. Thank you Rachel Monroe!
The author talks about the Manson murders which have been excessively covered, and yet the way she presents this crime is less about Manson, and more about how the crime changed so many things and so many people.
She speaks about the murder of Taylor Behl in 2005 which happened in her town. Rachel says “Part of what I was looking for, I realized, was overlap, all the ways she and I were similar. There was a troubling pleasure in thinking about how I could have been her, or she could have been me… It felt good, in a bad way, to think about my own proximity to violence. To imagine my life as a near miss.”
Rachel also addresses a phenomenon that has always perplexed me – that of women who “date” and/or marry men serving life sentences in prison. This section is a must read.
I even learned a new word:
HYBRISTOPHOLIA – the attraction to someone who has committed murder.
I never knew there was a word for it, but, in this day and age, I should not have been surprised.
All in all, Author Rachel Monroe has gone deep down many rabbit holes in her research for this book. She extensively studied so many factors that it is amazing she was able to whittle them down into a cohesive and compelling whole.
I rate SAVAGE APPETITES as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and because of it’s subject matter, I forsee it becoming a book that is widely read. Perhaps she will have her own following at CrimeCon 2020. . *** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rachel Monroe is a writer and volunteer firefighter living in Marfa, Texas.
Her work has appeared in The Best American Travel Writing 2018, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
Lee, who died in 1962, called her miniatures “nutshell studies” because the job of homicide investigators, according to a phrase she had picked up from detectives, is to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent and find the truth in a nutshell.”
“She became the first female police captain in the country, and she was regarded as an expert in the field of homicide investigation,” exhibit curator Nora Atkinson says.
When Lee was building her macabre miniatures, she was a wealthy heiress and grandmother in New Hampshire who had spent decades reading medical textbooks and attending autopsies. Police departments brought her in to consult on difficult cases, and she also taught forensic science seminars at Harvard Medical School, Atkinson says. Lee painstakingly constructed the dioramas for her seminars, basing them on real-life cases but altering details to protect the victims’ privacy.
“She was very particular about exactly how dolls ought to appear to express social status and the way [the victims] died,” Atkinson says.
“If a doll has a specific discoloration, it’s scientifically accurate — she’s reproducing the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and positioning them based on when rigor mortis took effect.”
Tiny details in the scenes matter too. For example, fibers on one doll’s wounds match those on a nearby door frame.
At the Renwick exhibit, visitors will be given magnifying glasses and flashlights to conduct their own homicide investigations, but don’t ask museum staff for help — the scenes are still used in annual training seminars, so their secrets are closely guarded.
TRY TO DEDUCE WHAT HAPPENED IN THE 11 ITEMS POINTED OUT BELOW …
1. Lee used red nail polish to make pools and splatters of blood.
2. Lee crocheted this tiny teddy bear herself, so that future investigators might wonder how it landed in the middle of the floor.
3. The pattern on the floor of this room has faded over time, making the spent shotgun shell easier to find.
4. Lee knit this runner and sewed the toy chairs on it in this exact state of disarray.
5. The bedroom window is open. Could it be a sign of forced entry?
6. Lee would paint charms from bracelets to create some prop items. Others she bought from dollhouse manufacturers.
7. The table settings are sewn into place to indicate an orderly, prosperous family.
8. There’s one big clue in clear view in this room
9. Lee sewed the clothes worn by her figurines, selecting fabrics that signified their social status and state of mind. In some cases, she even tailor-made underwear for them.
10. The doll heads and arms were antique German porcelain doll parts that were commercially available. Lee would create the bodies herself, often with lead shot in them.
Leave your guess in the comments and I will come back and discuss it with you. In your comments post any clues or abnormalities in the scenes that you find.
A FEW MORE PICTURES OF THE “NUTSHELL” MINIATURE CRIME SCENES:
Every element of the dioramas—from the angle of miniscule bullet holes, the placement of latches on widows, the patterns of blood splatters, and the discoloration of painstakingly painted miniature corpses—challenges trainees’ powers of observation and deduction. The Nutshells are so effective that they are still used in training seminars today at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.
Showcasing the Nutshells at the Renwick allows visitors to appreciate them as works of art and material culture in addition to understanding their importance as forensic tools, and to see Lee’s genius for telling complex stories through the expressive potential of simple materials. While the Nutshells represent composites of real and extremely challenging cases featuring homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths, Lee imagined and designed each setting herself. She was both exacting and highly creative in her pursuit of detail—knitting tiny stocking by hand with straight pins, hand-rolling tiny tobacco-filled cigarettes and burning the ends, writing tiny letters with a single-hair paintbrush, and creating working locks for windows and doors.
The exhibition also highlights the subtly subversive quality of Lee’s work, especially the way her dioramas challenge the association of femininity with domestic bliss and upend the expected uses for miniature making, sewing, an other crafts considered to be “women’s work.” Also evident is her purposeful focus on society’s “invisible victims,” whose cases she championed. Lee was devoted to the search for truth and justice for everyone, and she often featured victims such as women, the poor, and and people living on the fringes of society, whose cases might be overlooked or tainted with prejudice on the part of the investigator. She wanted trainees to recognize and overcome any unconscious biases and to treat each case with rigor, regardless of the victim.
As the Nutshells are still active training tools, the solutions to each remain secret. However, the crime scene “reports” (written by Lee to accompany each case) given to forensic trainees are presented alongside each diorama to encourage visitors to approach the Nutshells the way an investigator would.
Watch this documentary “OF DOLLS AND MURDER” when you have a spare hour
This documentary was followed by another with newly discovered material called MURDER IN A NUTSHELL
THE MURDER OF TAYLOR BEHL
Taylor Behl was a 17-year-old freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, left her dormitory room Sept. 5, 2005 to give her roommate some privacy with her boyfriend. She took with her a cell phone, some cash, a student ID and her car keys. She was never seen alive again.
To learn more about the murder of Taylor Behl, click HERE.