Review: Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

 

Title: Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Author: Dani Shapiro

Published: January 15th 2019, Alfred A. Knopf

Status: Read November 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

In the Spring of 2016, fifty-four year old bestselling author and teacher Dani Shapiro, casually agreed to submit her DNA for testing through Ancestry.com, in support of her husband’s new found interest in genealogy. Dani is shocked when the results arrive and she learns that her late beloved father, could not possibly have been her biological father.

For Dani this is a particularly stunning blow, her identity has always been very closely tied to her paternal Ashkenazi Jew heritage (a subject she has explored extensively in her previous memoirs). As both her parents are deceased, her father as a result of a car accident when Dani was in her early twenties, and her mother in about 2001, Dani can’t ask them to explain.

Inheritance relates Dani’s journey as she pieces together fragments of information to determine why it is that her father is not her biological father, and who it may be. It’s a difficult process, both emotionally, as she struggles to come to terms with all of what she learns, and what it means to her, and practically, given so much time had passed.

I found Dani’s story to be compelling, her situation may not be unique, but her experience is intensely personal, and she is honest about its impact on her. I did find the lack of objectivity frustrating at times, though it’s not my place to judge her particular issues.

A thought provoking and emotional memoir, Inheritance is an interesting exploration of identity, and belonging.

++++++

Available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I via Indiebound

#NonficNov- New To My TBR + Wrap Up

 

It’s the final week of Nonfiction November, hosted by Rennie @ WhatsNonfiction.

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Where to start? I’ve added sooo many books to my TBR during this event…

From What’s Nonfiction:

Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell, The Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber, Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood, All The Remains by Sue Black, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

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From Rather Too Fond of Books:

Trauma by Dr Gordon Turnbull, After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry, The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes

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From Still Life, with Cracker Crumbs:

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin

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From Unruly Reader:

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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From Writerly Reader:

The Man from the Train by Bill James, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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From Maphead’s Book Blog:

Running the Books by Avi Steinberg, A Thousand Lives by Julie Scheers

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Haben by Haben Girma from Based On A True Story

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Gottlieb from Readerbuzz

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends by Amy Silverstein from Mind Joggle

Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard from Secret Library Book Blog

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales from Brona’s Books

Twelve Patients: Life and Death in Bellevue Hospital by Eric Mannheimer from Hopewell Public Library of Life

Punishment without Crime by Alexandra Natapoff from Reading The End

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie Farrell from Kristen Kraves Books

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan from Book Lovers Pizza

Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson from Books Please

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper from Bookish Beck

Killer Across The Table by John Douglas from Superfluous Reading

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon from Paperback Princess

And a few more that I forgot to note from where the recommendation came!

I’ve really enjoyed Nonfiction November 2019, and I’m looking forward to participating next year. Thank you to the hosts and all those who took part.

_________________________

My Nonfiction November 2019 Wrap Up

Nonfiction Books Read: 10/15

Posts:

#NonficNov – Your Year In NonFiction

Review: Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Review: Bush Doctors by Annabelle Brayley

#NonficNov – Book Pairings

Review: Unmentionable by Therese Oneill

Review: They Walk Among Us by Benjamin and Rosanna Fitton

#NonficNov – Become the Expert

Review: Killer Instinct: Having a Mind for Murder by Donald Grant

Review: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton

Review: Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psycho’s, Stalkers, Pervs and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg

#NonficNov – Nonfiction Favourites

Review: Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman

Review: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

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#NonficNov Review: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

 

Title: Eggshell Skull: A Memoir About Standing Up, Speaking Out and Fighting Back

Author: Bri Lee

Published: June 1st 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read November 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

In this searingly honest and revealing memoir, Bri Lee shares her personal journey as she pursues justice after reporting a childhood sexual assault.

After graduating from the University of Queensland with a degree in law, Bri is one of the lucky few to gain a year long position as an associate for a District Judge. The position involves the pair traveling between Brisbane and regional areas of Queensland to adjudicate cases in courts who do not have a full time Judge. Bri is excited for the opportunity, but with each case becomes increasingly disillusioned by the justice system which seems to be particularly weighted against women and children who are victims of sexual violence. The victims experiences resonate with Bri because she was molested as a child by a friend of her older brother.

Bri had never felt able to reveal the abuse, instead filtering her emotional pain and confusion through cutting, bulimia, and self-loathing, which increased during her time as an Associate. Despite witnessing the repeated failures of the system, Bri is infused with the courage to finally report her experience, in part recognising the advantages she holds as a complainant, a privilege she relates to the Eggshell Skull doctrine.

I’ve seen some criticism levelled at this book because of that privilege, however none of it negates her experience as a victim, or a survivor. Bri’s journey is intensely personal, as it is for all those who experience sexual violence, but she is in an unique position to highlight the justice system’s flaws and inequities, not only in relation to her own case, but also how that might translate into the cases of others.

I found Eggshell Skull compelling reading that stirred a range of emotions from fury, to despair, to hope, and admiration, and everything in between. There is still so much fighting to do.

_______

“In Queensland an estimated 30,000 sexual assaults occur each year, yet in 2017, just 4751 sex crimes were officially reported to police. Around half that number proceeded to trial (2446 cases) but of them, only 835 resulted in a guilty verdict. Of the 835 perpetrators found guilty of sex offences in Queensland in 2017, roughly half — 44 per cent — were released straight back on to the streets with a mere slap on the wrist, such as a fine, a community service order or a suspended sentence….Perpetrators who did go to jail also received very brief sentences.” – Queensland is Australia’s worst state for sexual abuse survivors to find justice – Nina Funnell, News.com.au, December 13th 2018

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

#NonficNov Review: Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman

Title: Life Moves Pretty Fast: The lessons we learned from eighties movies (and why we don’t learn them from movies any more)

Author: Hadley Freeman

Published: May 7th 2015, 4th Estate

Status: Read November 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

“When you grow up your heart dies.” – The Breakfast Club (John Hughes)

I am a 80’s tragic.. the music, the fashion, the movies… (just joking about the fashion). If asked, The Breakfast Club and Dirty Dancing are my two all time favourite movies, so when I saw Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman mentioned on booksaremyfavouriteandbest, I added it to my TBR list.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from Life Moves Pretty Fast, apart from an entertaining stroll through my adolescent memories, but I found it much more thought provoking than I was anticipating. Part personal reminisce, part analysis, Hadley enthusiastically examines many of the 1980’s movies (English speaking) Gen Xers will remember fondly from their youth.

While Freeman’s obsession with Ghostbusters and Bill Murray eludes me, as does the inevitable, and in my opinion inexplicable, (American) preoccupation with The Princess Bride, a variety of movies rate in depth discussion from Freeman like Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Back to the Future, When Harry Met Sally, Beverly Hills Cop, and my aforementioned favourites, The Breakfast Cub and Dirty Dancing, others rate only a few lines, like Mannequin, Blue’s Brothers, and Cant Buy Me Love. It should be noted that the author’s attention is heavily skewed in favour of teen movies and ‘chick flicks’, so there is little mention of whole swathes of cinematic genres like action blockbusters.

There is a strong feminist slant to Freeman’s analysis, and I think she, and several of the people whom she interviewed, like Melissa Silverstein, made some excellent points about movies then, and movies now, that I’d never given much thought to, especially in relation to Dirty Dancing and Pretty in Pink. However, I also thought that at times her position was a little thin, and contradictory.

Surprisingly I actually enjoyed Freeman’s footnotes, which I’d usually dismiss, and I loved Freeman’s dozen or so ‘Top’ lists, including ‘The Top Five Movie Montages’ and ‘The Ten Best Rock Songs on an Eighties Movie Soundtrack’. Though I didn’t always agree with her opinion, I very much enjoyed the nostalgia they evoked.

I believe you need to have seen, and enjoyed, a good number of 80’s movies to enjoy Life Moves Pretty Fast, which shouldn’t be a problem if you are aged between say forty and fifty. I’ve tried to introduce (ie. force) my teen daughters to more than one but haven’t been terribly successful. Honestly, several of them don’t hold up well, but they will all nethertheless have a place in my heart.

++++++

Read an Extract

Available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound I Book Depository

#NonficNov – NonFiction Favourites

 

Week four’s host is Leann from Shelf Aware

[We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favourites.]

I’ve been giving this week’s topic a lot of thought, and I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to formulate a response. Unlike my fiction reading, which is heavily scheduled due to review commitments, generally I can choose non fiction on a whim. This usually involves simply browsing until a title and/or description catches my eye.

Looking at the titles I add to my TBR, it’s clear I have a strong preference for non fiction presented as a narrative. I also like non fiction that utilises plenty of anecdotes, or in the case of memoirs, are a series of anecdotes. So it seems a personal touch is important to me.

There are five qualities I enjoy in non-fiction, and it’s generally a combination of two or more that will ensure a rewarding reading experience, but here are some examples of each quality that I gave five stars:

 

Funny: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Laugh out loud funny, poignant and a little crazy, read this and make yourself #FuriouslyHappy

 

Thought provoking: Unbelievable by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

As an examination and exposé of law enforcement’s enduring failures to investigate reports of rape properly, you will find yourself thinking of this story often.

 

Informative: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg

Investigative journalist Nordberg, attempts to explain the complex role of a ‘bacha posh’ in Afghan society by sharing the moving stories of women’s experiences.

 

Relatable: The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

So much of what Glover writes in this collection of essays evokes memories of my childhood in Australia circa the late 1970’s /early 1980’s.

 

Unusual: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

I sometimes like to deliberately chose a topic to read about that I would consider out of my comfort zone. The risk doesn’t always pay off, but it did with this book, I found it absolutely fascinating.

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My Nonfiction November so far…

Nonfiction Books Read: 8/15

Posts:

#NonficNov – Your Year In NonFiction

Review: Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Review: Bush Doctors by Annabelle Brayley

#NonficNov – Book Pairings

Review: Unmentionable by Therese Oneill

Review: They Walk Among Us by Benjamin and Rosanna Fitton

#NonficNov – Become the Expert

Review: Killer Instinct: Having a Mind for Murder by Donald Grant

Review: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton

Review: Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psycho’s, Stalkers, Pervs and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg

#NonficNov Review: Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg

Title: Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls

Author: Carrie Goldberg

Published: August 13th 2019, Plume

Status: Read November 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

“My name is Carrie Goldberg and I’m a victims’ rights lawyer. Some people call me a “passionate advocate” or a “social justice warrior.” I’d rather be called a ruthless motherf*cker.”

This is how Carrie Goldberg introduces herself in the bold and utterly compelling Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls. Goldberg is a lawyer whose firm, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, specialises in representing those who are targeted by offenders that use the internet to stalk, harass, intimidate, extort, or otherwise cause them harm.

Carrie has an intimate understanding of the issues her clients face, the inspiration for establishing her law firm came when she was victimised by an ex who tormented her for over a year with, among other things, a flood of hateful texts and emails, threats to post intimate pictures online, false allegations made on social media to friends and family, and a vexatious criminal charge. She was frustrated, frightened and near suicidal to discover the law could not protect her from his unreasonable rage.

While (US based) tech companies shield themselves from responsibility by exploiting a piece of legislation known as Section 230 of the CDA, the legal system moves too slowly to put adequate protections in place, and too many (white men) in power support the status quo, Carrie fights hard for the recognition of her clients rights to safety, privacy and dignity.

In sharing the stories of some of her clients, who include a thirteen year old girl who was excluded from attending school after reporting that she was raped by a fellow student, a young man whose ex used the Grindr app to send more than a thousand strangers to his door, a woman forced to go into hiding when she was doxed in a troll attack, and the five women who accused Weinstein of sex crimes, triggering the #metoo movement, Goldberg illustrates the grim failures of society to protect girls and boys, women and men, from the psycho’s, stalkers, pervs and trolls who target them, and leads the fight to protect them.

“There’s help if you need it and an army of warriors ready to stand by your side. You matter and you don’t have to fight this battle alone. You are nobody’s victim”

I would not hesitate to recommend Nobody’s Victim to everyone, this is a thought provoking, honest, and important expose of an injustice that demands attention and support to resolve.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

#NonFicNov Review: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton

 

Title: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective: Secrets & Lies in the Golden Age of Crime

Author: Susannah Stapleton

Published: June 13th 2019, Picador

Status: Read November 2019

+++++++

My Thoughts:

I have Cleopatra Loves Books to thank for putting this fascinating title on my radar.

While reading a novel set in the ‘Golden Age of Crime Fiction’ featuring a female sleuth, Susannah Stapleton, a former bookseller, archeologist, and historical researcher, began to wonder if there really were lady detectives working during the early 20th century. An online search eventually revealed the name of one, Maud West.

Maud West, Stapleton was to learn, was a lady detective in London who established her agency in about 1905. She claimed in advertisements published in 1909 to be the principal of a high-class firm with both male and female staff, offering services to those in need of private enquiries into delicate matters. A little more research yielded several articles not only in the British press but also in international newspapers from countries as far afield as America, Australia and India, which provided further details about Maud, and her sensational career. Intrigued by the stories, Stapleton continued to dig deeper, however she soon found that Maud West was an astonishingly complex woman, and the truth about her perhaps more elusive than the most slippery private detective’s quarry.

Between chapters that illustrate Stapleton’s painstaking research process and her incredible findings, the author includes reprints of articles written by Maud West for a tabloid broadsheet detailing her supposed exploits as a lady detective. It is a rather unconventional narrative, but it results in an entertaining and easy read. The book is further enhanced by the inclusion of photographs and newspaper excerpts, and Stapleton also provides some social history for context.

I really enjoyed The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective. The woman herself is a fascinating figure, and Stapleton’s pursuit of her life story makes for compelling reading.

++++++

Read an Excerpt

Available from Pan Macmillan Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

#NonFicNov Review: Killer Instinct: Having a Mind for Murder by Donald Grant

 

Title: Killer Instinct: Having a Mind for Murder

Author: Donald Grant

Published: May 28th 2018, University of Melbourne Press

Status: Read November 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

“The killer instinct is therefore alive and well—dormant and out of conscious awareness for the most part, but nevertheless exerting some influence over our attitudes and behaviour. At some deep level we are aware of our potential for violence.”

As a forensic psychiatrist, Donald Grant’s role is to assess the motives of an alleged offender and provide a report to the court on any relevant clinical issues that may affect trial, sentencing or parole. In Killer Instinct: Having A Mind for Murder, he presents ten murder cases in which he was involved, providing details of the crime/s, and his assessment of the alleged perpetrators state of mind based on case evidence and interviews.

All ten of the cases chosen for this book occurred during the last thirty years, and were tried in Queensland where Grant’s medico-legal practice is based. Given that in Australia the incidence of murder—the number of new cases per year—is relatively low (around one murder per 100 000 people) all of these cases have attracted media attention, so the reader may be familiar with the generalities, if not the details, though several were unknown to me.

Grant begins with arguably the most sensationalised case involving Tracey Wigginton, whom the media dubbed “The Lesbian Vampire Killer”. In 1989, Tracey stabbed Edward Baldock to death on the bank of Brisbane River, and claimed to have ‘fed’ on his blood. Identified and charged within days, questions quickly arose regarding Tracey’s mental health. Some months after her arrest, Grant was asked to provide his independent medico-legal opinion to the court, and shares his process as he determines if Tracey is entitled to a psychiatric defence relevant to the murder charge.

The other nine cases are presented in a similar fashion. Though the perpetrators in this book are all determined in a court of law to be responsible for the death of another, they are not all found guilty of murder. Some are ultimately convicted of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility, or are placed on a forensic order (ie. detained in a Secure Inpatient Psychiatric Service under the purview of The Mental Health Review Tribunal) due to a finding of unsoundness of mind. Grant has selected complex cases that illustrate murder committed for varying motives including Grant Meredith, who murdered at least one young woman to satisfy his sadistic sexual urges; Colin Wilson who ‘snapped’ and murdered his ailing mother before attempting suicide; and Melissa Englart who was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness when she killed her husband.

Written in a straightforward and dispassionate manner, the author uses little in the way of jargon, though includes a glossary in case the need arises. Grant also includes some general chapters on the reasons why the public finds the details of crime entertaining (due to our suppressed killer instinct) and some information about the medico-legal distinctions of diminished responsibility and unsoundness of mind. I found these a little awkward, in both tone and placement.

However I found the cases, and Grant’s assessments, sufficiently detailed and interesting, providing intriguing insight into the actions of these killers. This book should satisfy those of us with a killer instinct, fans of the true crime genre, or those curious about the psychological motives of murder

++++++

Available from University of Melbourne Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

#NonFicNov – Become the Expert: Australian True Crime featuring Female Perpetrators

 

Hosted by DoingDewey, this week’s participants in NonFiction November are asked to either share books on a single topic that you’ve read and can recommend (be the expert); you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you’ve been dying to read (ask the expert); or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

In my reading life I’ve read quite a bit of true crime, a genre traditionally dominated by American cases. I’ve always wanted to read more Australian true crime, but until the recent resurgence of interest in the genre, there has been little available.

Of particular interest to me is true crime that features a woman as the perpetrator, which of course tends to be infrequent, as women are far more often the victims of violent crimes. However, here are twelve nonfiction titles that feature murderous Australian women over a period of two centuries, some of which I have read, others which are on my wishlist.

I believe these books will appeal to those interested in not only in true crime but also history, law, and women’s studies.

I’m going to start with A Cargo of Women by Babette Smith. This non fiction book focuses on the experiences on one hundred women who were sentenced to transportation to Australia, often for petty crimes, in 1829. It’s a fascinating exploration of their experiences as convicts.

 

The Baby Farmers by Annie Cossins, and The Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington are both titles that feature women who committed crimes in the later 1800’s.

 

The Suitcase Baby by Tania Bretherton, My Mother, A Serial Killer by Hazel Baron, and Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner are about crimes that occurred in the 1900’s

 

The crimes explored in Blood Stain by Peter Lalor, Nice Girl by Rachael Jane Chin and Kathleen Folbigg: Australia’s Worst Serial Killer by Matthew Benns were committed this century.

 

If however you are interested in a collection of cases, then Green Is the New Black by James Phelps, Deadly Australian Women by Kay Saunders, or Mothers Who Murder by Xanthe Mallett might be just what you are looking for.

I hope you find something to interest you.

 

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My Nonfiction November so far…

Nonfiction Books Read: 5/15

Posts:

#NonficNov – Your Year In NonFiction

Review: Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Review: Bush Doctors by Annabelle Brayley

#NonficNov – Book Pairings

Review: Unmentionable by Therese Oneill

Review: They Walk Among Us by Benjamin and Rosanna Fitton

#NonficNov Review: They Walk Among Us by Benjamin and Rosanna Fitton

 

Title: They Walk Among Us

Author: Benjamin and Rosanna Fitton

Published: May 30th 2019, Virgin Digital

Status: Read November 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

They Walk Among Us is a collection of ten British true crime stories from the podcast hosts of They Walk Among Us, Benjamin and Rosanna Fitton.

Given that the genre is dominated by American crime, it’s likely these cases from the UK will be new to many readers. The cases here are not presented in exhaustive detail, but certainly with enough to provide a clear understanding of events, and the aftermath. They include the murder of intimate partners, a very unusual instance of deception, and financial dishonesty on a grand scale.

I thought They Walk Among Us offered an appealing mix of well told and interesting cases. Regular listeners of the podcast will be delighted to learn that these cases have not been covered in previous episodes and while to be honest the podcast is a little over scripted for my tastes, I’d certainly be interested in reading more from this duo.

++++++

Available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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