Review: A Mother’s Reckoning – Living in the Aftermath of the Columbine Tragedy By Sue Klebold

Goodreads Blurb

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

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Dylan Klebold

For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day

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Author Sue Klebold – Dylan’s mother

since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and

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Eric Harris

haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.

All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.

My Review

There aren’t a lot of people who don’t know about the terrible tragedy that was Columbine school shootings which happened in April 1999. If you’re wondering if you are empathetic, all you need to do is pick up this book and read it, I guarantee you that by the end of it, you’ll have gone through at least 6 boxes of tissues! It’s truly and heart wrenching read.

Sue, is Dylan Klebold’s mother, and he is one of the shooters that killed 12 students and one teacher, and wounded as many as 25 others.  She thought she knew her son, thought that all he needed was love and everything that ‘good parenting’ entails. However, she finds out in the worst way possible that there was a lot more going on with him than what she saw on the surface. How do you deal with something so horrific? Your son’s suicide, and the fact that he was partly responsible for the murder and injuring of others? Sue really does a magnificent job of baring her soul, her thoughts, her failures, and her ignorance for the world to see.

It was really eye opening to read what she had to go through, including the awful things from strangers that came from all around the world. People tend to forget that she, and her family, were victims as well.  She paints us a picture of the son she thought she knew, and the painful path she walked when it was revealed who he really was. You just can’t imagine.

She does do a great job in sharing various information that she has learned about mental health (or brain health as she likes to call it), violence, and school shootings by interviewing various experts over the last 16 years. Things that sometimes people don’t think about, or know about, or have been told a skewed or wrong information. However, there were times when it was very much biased information that she was sharing.   I suppose that’s only to be expected, and she does do a good job to try and avoid it. She shares a lot of information that is helpful for parents to know, and just people in general. I think the message to ‘think before you speak/type/rant’ is poignant in this book; not just about this tragedy, but to other like it. It’s pretty easy to throw blame when you live in a black and white world. Some of us know that the world isn’t black and white though, there’s a lot of grey. And essentially, mental health can be grey at times, because of our individuality.

Overall, this was a fantastic read. A real eye opener in that you get to experience some of what it’s like for families who are involved in tragedies like this. Hopefully, you feel a little more empathy and compassion at the end of it, if you didn’t already.

I rate this book: 4.5/5

You can purchase the ebook here

Happy buying and reading!

Nat

Review: Two By Two by Nicholas Sparks 

Amazon Blurb

At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear…and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding-one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined. 

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My Review 

Like many, I’ve fallen in love with ‘Sparkie’ books over the years. You can hardly believe a male can write such deep and moving stories. This time though, I’ve been torn. 

I feel like I should get my grievances out of the way first, because I almost feel some-what guilty for having them 🤔.  It was in 1st person POV. It was hard to maintain attention, because it was quite boring for 2/3 of the book. The constant small scene changes were quite annoying and ruined the flow at times. Sometimes the character felt very one-dimensional, which then added to the boredom.  And finally I really disliked the very short time period between Vivian and Emily, but that’s just a personal opinion. 

So what did I like about it?

I like, that after 270 odd pages, that I started finally enjoying it. I admit, I considered quitting, but I’m glad I finished it. I was quite literally bawling at the end 😂😭😭  I’ve made it no secret that 1st POV is not my favourite, but I did start to realise that it was refreshing to have such a personal view of a males feelings. I haven’t been privy to that very much in my life time, so I enjoyed the peak that we were allowed here. I actually quite enjoyed the flashback reminiscing we got at the beginning of each chapter, also. I like that it was upfront in the chapter, instead of being slotted in somewhere in the chapter and the author doing a random flashback between scene changes. 

I loved the emotion during the last 1/3 of the book, so much so that was bawling like a baby 😂 and that’s how it should be reading a sparkie book. I would have liked him to have brought that part of the book further forward in the book, if anything I think he glossed over the things in there to quickly. 

So while it started at as some what of a game train wreck, it did pick up for me toward the back. It’s definitely not what I had been expecting, and maybe that’s what’s influenced my opinion. It’s sometimes hard to break old habits. I think if you start this book being prepared that it’s not a typo I am sparkie book, you might enjoy it that little bit more. Or maybe not… Definitely give it a go though, and finish it, don’t just quit! 

I rate this book: 3/5 

Purchase your ebook copy here at Amazon. 

Happy buying and reading 

Nat 

My next read…

So I finished my last book a day or two ago and now I’ve picked up a Nicholas Sparks newbie, Two By Two. I’ve seldom been let down by a sparkie book. Hard to choose a favourite but I really do enjoy them, and the movies too.

Are you a Sparkie fan?

Happy buying and reading

Nat

Review: I Would Find a Girl Walking By Kathy Kelly and Diane Montane’

Goodreads Blub

“I would be drinking and lonely, thinking about all the couples having fun together. And here I am, single, haveing no fun at all. Then I would go out riding around and I would find a girl walking…”-Gerald Stano

His licence plate read: No riders except blondes, brunettes, and redheads. With his flared polyester pants, open nylon shirt, and disco music on his eight track, Gerald Stano believed he was quite the ladies’ man. And should a girl dare fracture his ego, he killed her.

 

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Serial Killer Gerald Stano

By the time he was twenty-eight, Gerald confessed to murdering up to forty women over an eleven-year period. How they died was left to the moment: strangled, stabbed, drowned, or shot. Why? They crossed Gerald’s path and were tossed out like trash. But there were other troubling questions: How did this obsessive loner lure so many women into his car? And how could so many appalling crimes go unconnected for so long?

Based on exclusive access to the killer-and extensive correspondence with him-as well as interviews with the lead investigator and the victims’ families, this is a revealing, shocking, and unflinching portrait of a man who fancied himself one of the greatest lady-killers of them all.

My Review

As far as true crime books on serial killers go, this one is pretty good. My only gripe with it would be the tone at times, which I would assume is more to so with author Kathy Kelly having been a journalist. You can tell that but the constant use of over emotive language. Especially in the reenactments of the ladies murders, as well as at the end in the letters that he wrote personally to her to which she would someones right a commentary on.  Other than that, I very much enjoyed it.

I found the personal touch of the letter correspondence, gave the story a different touch to other serial killer books.  It was intriguing how Stano talked once in prison.  And more so interesting to know that he was on the same death row block at the same time with Ted Bundy. So if you enjoy serial killer books, and withstand moderate emotive narrative, then this one should quench your literary thirst.

I gave this book: 4/5

You can grab an ebook copy here

Happy buying and reading

Nat

Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Goodreads Blurb

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

My Review

WARNING: There is a soft plot reveal in there so please don’t read if you don’t want to know

I wanted to read this book because I saw the movie, and loved it! With my study/work schedule I often see the movie before the book and then go read the book because the movie was so good. So I was expecting awesome things, and also hoped that the book would answer some questions that I had from the movie.

Generally, bookworms get up in arms about books that are made into movies. You’ll often come across social media threads, where the movie received scathing reviews; readers pointing out all of the movies flaws, lack of ’emotion’, and the rest. I’m not like that. At all. Books and movies are two different platforms, that allow for two different views on a story. Often the movie changes details of a book here and there, because of that very reason, they’re trying to tell a story differently. And I’m fine with that.

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Movie “Room” 2016 poster

After seeing the movie Room, which I really enjoyed, I was excited to go read the book. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon for me to to watch the movie first and then read the book. I’m not a naive or amateur reader, and I’m well aware that the books can be better than the movie. The last instance for me of the was when I watched The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks. I watched the movie first and loved it, then went and read the book and loved that even more! However, I was greatly disappointed with the Room book.

The thing that I did not like the most about the book, was the author’s decision to tell the story through Jack’s eyes.  It’s obvious that she’s trying to channel a five year old, but for me, it just didn’t work at all.  The language, the misuse of language, made for a confusing and agitating read, the entire book. People from social media kept telling me that it would get better after the first 25 pages, that it was emotional and gut-renching, and far better than the movie, but but for that just wasn’t the case. I found the emotion very dull. I believe, for me, this was because I was unable to connect with the story because of the POV issue.

Usually there’s a character that annoys me in a book, and this one was no different. I didn’t much care for the mother/grandmother. She rubbed me the wrong way with how she dealt/reacted to Jack in his new situation.  But then that’s something that needed to be dealt with, by having the character see a psychologist. Which they (the characters) should have all been doing, not just the two main. That’s something that the author had the opportunity to address, seeing as mental health is a major issue that is current in society today.

There were instances that I enjoyed. I did love Jack experiencing the world. It’s really amazing to think that these cases really do happen, and makes you think just how difficult it would be to experience everything for the first time. I find a good book, should make you ask questions, and Room certainly did.  And like I had hoped, the book did answer some questions that I had from the movie, so that a plus.

I feel like this has been one of my more negative reviews, which I’m sorry about because I don’t want that to potentially put you off reading. Because if you haven’t already seen by now, social media is full of positive reviews. I also don’t personally let a review make a decision for me, I like to make my own up. So I encourage you to read this because you may be one of those that ends up enjoying or loving it!!

I gave this book: 3/5

You can purchase an ebook copy here

Happy Reading!

Nat

Review: Adnan’s Story: The Truth by Rabia Chaundry

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Goodreads Blurb

In early 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus thirty years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland. Syed has maintained his innocence, and Rabia Chaudry, a family friend, has always believed him. By 2013, after almost all appeals had been exhausted, Rabia contacted Sarah Koenig, a producer at This American Life, in hopes of finding a journalist who could shed light on Adnan’s story. In 2014, Koenig’s investigation turned into Serial, a Peabody Award-winning podcast with more than 500 million international listeners

But Serial did not tell the whole story. In this compelling narrative, Rabia Chaudry presents new key evidence that she maintains dismantles the State’s case: a potential new suspect, forensics indicating Hae was killed and kept somewhere for almost half a day, and documentation withheld by the State that destroys the cell phone evidence — among many other points — and she shows how fans of Serial joined a crowd-sourced investigation into a case riddled with errors and strange twists. Adnan’s Story also shares Adnan’s life in prison, and weaves in his personal reflections, including never-before-seen letters. Chaudry, who is committed to exonerating Adnan, makes it clear that justice is yet to be achieved in this much examined case.

My Review

Wow. Just wow. I remember first listening to the “Serial” podcast early 2015. I listened to each of the episodes on the series while I was at the gym, on my iphone. I didn’t know anything about the case it was based on, that of Adnan Syed and his ex-girlfriend, for whom he is currently serving a life sentence plus 30 years for her murder.  Of course, after listening to the podcast, I did a little research but due to my own studies, that was limited.  I then picked up this book, and have to admit it’s been one of the best true crime books that I’ve read in a while.

If you’ve listened to Serial, you’ll know that it was 12 episodes, so you would think that that is A LOT of information. It’s not. It’s only a very small portion of Adnan’s case, and that is what Rabia herself has said.  This book is soooooo rich in information. Information on Adnan, on his case, on the prosecutions case, on the defense case, on the detectives and police, Adnan’s family, and of course, Adnan’s ethnicity and religion which has played a very important role in his trial. Not only does Rabia talk about the issues in Adnan’s case, but also addresses the issues of the ‘broken’ system that we rely so heavily on.  I’m in awe of the amazing job that Rabia has done in the case, and the book, and how enthralling it is to read. I go to 60% through and couldn’t tear myself away from it, having to finish it over an hour and a half, whilst holding onto a full bladder!

The flow and style of writing was definitely an absolute pleasure. The release of information was plentiful but manageable, and the way theories and evidence was revealed was fascinating. I really learned a lot about the case, but also about Muslims, which admittedly, I really didn’t know a lot about. So I loved all this information and education. Really, I can’t speak more highly enough about this book. I believe that there could be no better person to be advocating for Adnan, and Rabia has certainly done a spectacular job throwing her time and effort into this. Adnan would be very proud and thankful for it.

Do yourself a favour and GRAB THIS BOOK. You can do that here for the ebook, and here for the paperback.

You can also visit Rabia Chaundry’s website here

I rated this book: 5/5

Happy purchasing and reading

Nat

What Am I Reading At the Moment?

Christmas is just around the corner. Literally. Two sleeps away. Got my shopping done a little earlier this year, and to be honest, I’m patiently waiting for it to be done for another year so my purse can recouperate! img_1979

I’m almost half-way through Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry, which is the story from the podcast Serial, if you’re familiar with it. And despite some less than fantastic reviews, I’m very much enjoying it.

his-kidnappers-shoesI’ve also just decided on His Kidnapper’s Shoes by Maggie James to start on my Kindle. I received that as a ARC from Lake Union Publishing, and it actually sounds very intriguing so I look forward to starting that one in the next day or so.

Hope you all have a safe and happy holidays and I hope Santa’s good to you. By good, I mean buys lots of books!

Happy receiving, buying and reading

Nat

Review: Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

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Goodreads Blurb

A serial killer murdering for kicks.

A detective seeking revenge.

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.

When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun…

 

About the Author

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Rachel Amphlett is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, being sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014.

An advocate for knowledge within the publishing industry, Rachel is always happy to share her experiences to a wider audience through her blogging and speaking engagements.

You can keep in touch with Rachel by signing up to her mailing list via her website (http://www.rachelamphlett.com), or via Facebook (http://on.fb.me/TN7rpu) and Twitter: @RachelAmphlett

 

My Review

This book is the first in the Detective Kay Hunter series and opens with a kidnapping scene of a teen, with her parents frantically trying to battle the ticking clock to save her.  Personally, I didn’t find this one to be as ‘fast-paced’.  For me, there were times when it was slow and the the characters lacking a certain spark, this mainly being the serial killer. I have to admit, it wasn’t the most interesting serial killer that I’ve read. In fact, if anything let this story down, it was that character for me. I, like many other readers, enjoy a deep, dark, and twisted character but unfortunately, this one just didn’t have that vibe. It’s a complicated character to emulate on paper, and while there are a number of ficitonal books out there with them in it, I’ve read few that have been able to win me over.

The writing is enjoyable, and the chapters are the perfect length for those “Just one more….” moments, where you don’t want to put it down; however amongst the other series that this book now joins, I didn’t find it reaching a 5 stars just yet. I did enjoy Detective Hunter, she was tough and dedicated but also showed a more vulnerable side to her.  Her relationship with her husband was quite nice to read, as was her professional relationship with her colleagues.  And I very much enjoyed the last few chapters of the book, the author wrapped up in a way that’s got me eager to read the next in the series, and hopefully it will be another serial killer character that she’ll be able to win me over with!

Thank you very much to the author for allowing me to take part in the book blog tour, and for providing an ebook version to review, and I wish you all the best with the remainder of the tour!

You can purchase this title from Amazon here.

I rated this book: 4/5

Happy buying and reading

Nat

Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Wow, wow, wow. Now, I’ve heard on the bookworm grapevine, that Jodi Picoult work is pretty darn good. If her other stuff is like this book, then I’d better get into it, quick smart!!!

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Goodread Blurb

In Sterling, New Hampshire, 17-year-old high school student Peter Houghton has endured years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of classmates. His best friend, Josie Cormier, succumbed to peer pressure and now hangs out with the popular crowd that often instigates the harassment. One final incident of bullying sends Peter over the edge and leads him to commit an act of violence that forever changes the lives of Sterling’s residents.

Even those who were not inside the school that morning find their lives in an upheaval, including Alex Cormier. The superior court judge assigned to the Houghton case, Alex—whose daughter, Josie, witnessed the events that unfolded—must decide whether or not to step down. She’s torn between presiding over the biggest case of her career and knowing that doing so will cause an even wider chasm in her relationship with her emotionally fragile daughter. Josie, meanwhile, claims she can’t remember what happened in the last fatal minutes of Peter’s rampage. Or can she? And Peter’s parents, Lacy and Lewis Houghton, ceaselessly examine the past to see what they might have said or done to compel their son to such extremes. Nineteen Minutes also features the return of two of Jodi Picoult’s characters—defense attorney Jordan McAfee from The Pact and Salem Falls, and Patrick DuCharme, the intrepid detective introduced in Perfect Match.

Rich with psychological and social insight, Nineteen Minutes is a riveting, poignant, and thought-provoking novel that has at its center a haunting question. Do we ever really know someone?

My Review

You know at the beginning, I didn’t think i was going to like this one. I wasn’t a fan of the swapping from present to past with chapters, or the characters. However, I grew to actually love it. I don’t really have any other negatives! I loved this book. It was full of emotion, and so rich in research. The author did a wonderful job researching, I found myself getting lost in each and every character.  I think my favourite character was Peter. It’s a controversial topic,  and you’re often more inclined to to see his and his actions as ‘evil’ and you still may after reading this, but to me, I see Peter (and others who have acted like him) as human.  I think the author did a realistic, and gut-wrenching job at portraying the heartache and pain that the family of Peter, and real-life families in the same position, go through.  You can’t even begin to imagine how much your life could change if you were put in the same position. It’s almost unfathomable.

There’s no denying that Peter actions were wrong, however, it’s only natural to me, to feel empathy and sympathy for him especially at the author tells his story from kindergarten to the event.  It gave his character a face and emotion.  My heart broke for him in scenes that included his brother, and how he acted towards Peter.  The court scenes towards the end were fantastic. The dialogue between lawyers and witnesses flowed so beautifully, I flew threw it.  And started crying in the last three chapters when the little twist was revealed. Amazing. Definitely a book that makes you think and question life and being a parent.

I rate this book: 5/5

You can purchase this via Amazon ebook here

Happy buying and reading!

Nat

Review: The Hillside Stranglers by Darcy O’Brien

It’s taken me a while to finish this one, seeing as I started it at the beginning of my final semester. But I’ve finished it!.

Goodreads Blurb

Based on the bestselling book, Darcy O’Brien–author of Murder in Little Egypt–tells of the savage spree of rape and killing in Los Angeles and Buono’s and Bianchi’s resulting trial.

The Hillside Stranglers – Kenneth Bianci and Angelo Buono

The Hillside Strangler, later the Hillside Stranglers, is the media epithet for a serial killer who terrorized Los Angeles between October 1977 and February 1978, with the nickname originating from the fact that many of the victims’ bodies were discovered on the sides of the Hollywood Hills. The police, however, knew because of the presence of multiple distinct DNA traces and the positions of the bodies that two individuals were killing together, but withheld this information from the press. These two individuals were discovered to be cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, who were later convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing, and murdering ten females, ranging in age from twelve to twenty-eight years old.[1][2]

The Hillside Strangler murders began with the deaths of three prostitutes who were found strangled and dumped naked on hillsides northeast of the city between October and early November 1977, but it was not until the deaths of five young women who were not prostitutes, but girls who had been abducted from middle-class neighborhoods, that the media attention and subsequent “Hillside Strangler” moniker came to be.[3] There were two more murders in December and February before the Hillside Strangler murders abruptly stopped, an extensive investigation proved fruitless until the arrest of Bianchi in January, 1979 for the murder of two more young women in Washington and the subsequent linking of his past to the Hillside Strangler murders. The most expensive trial in the history of the California legal system at that time followed, with both Bianchi and Buono eventually being found guilty of these crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Info provided from Wiki

My Review

I think firstly, I’ll get what I didn’t enjoy about this book, out of the way.  I wasn’t a fan of the ‘fictional’ feeling I got from the writing. There were times when it felt more like a fictional story, than a non-fiction book.  I’m quite picky when it comes to authors reading transcripts and interviews, and the likes, and then constructing a reenactment of sorts.  I feel like there’s a little too much room for dramatisation in that respect and it has me wondering if that really happened the way the author described it.  Secondly, the court scenes (which are generally my favourite parts) was slightly hard to get through at times because it was dry, in my opinion.  In unnecessary parts, too much time devoted to, and the book could have done without. Although, I have to admit, I loved the way the author wrote about the judge, giving us a little look about him as a person. I really liked the Judge and the way he handled the case.

While I had an issue with the interpretation of the author at times, I did enjoy the information he provided us by his thorough investigation into the case.  Although it happened some years ago, it’s still one that many remember and refer to often.  I’m fairly familiar with this case, although there were times when the author made some information seem brand new.  I think it was the fact that he had a more personal view, being privy to specific information and talking to those who worked on the case, that did give his writing at times a special spark.  I enjoyed the respect he paid to those who worked on the case, especially to the victims and their families. This is an important part to get right, in my opinion, when you’re writing on a topic such as this.  I appreciated the fact that the author also managed to stay mostly neutral throughout.

So overall, I enjoyed it. Did it bring anything new to the table for me? No. But it might for you.  If you don’t know anything about these two offenders, then do a little google search, or even watch a documentary on youtube there’s tonnes of information out there.

I give this book: *** stars / 5

You can purchase the ebook version via amazon

Happy buying and reading!

Nat