Review: Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

 

Title: Chase Darkness With Me: How One True Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Author: Billy Jensen

Published: August 16th 2029, Sourcebooks

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

Choose Darkness With Me is a fascinating account of Billy Jensen’s passion for investigating unsolved crimes, and developing new strategies with which to solve them.

“Whenever people ask me why I only write about unsolved murders, I always say the same thing: because I hate the guy who got away with it.”

Jensen’s obsession with true crime began in childhood, inspired in part by his dad’s rather inappropriate bedtime stories. After earning a degree in Religion, and forays into a range of diverse professions including house painting, web marketing, and professional roller hockey, Jensen became a journalist. Landing a job as a stringer he was on course to be a crime beat reporter but quickly realised that he wasn’t comfortable just writing about the awful things that happened to people. He wanted to help, and turned his focus to the hundreds of thousands of missing persons, and unsolved murders mainstream media deemed ‘low profile’, eventually leading to the development of the website ‘True Crime Daily’, and a desire to reinvent the way true crime stories are told, and solved, through the use of television, mobile and web.

The potential of crowdsourcing crime solving is something Jensen often discussed with the late Michelle McNamara while she was in pursuit of identifying The Golden State Killer. After her untimely death, Jensen helped to complete her book, I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, and was motivated to take more direct action.

“I’m not chasing people. I’m chasing shadows, phantoms that flit in and out of a surveillance video. That’s on a good night. On the other nights, I’m chasing darkness.”

Of course online armchair detectives have been active for years, Websleuths was launched in 1999, and they recognised the potential of social media as a source for solving crime early on. Jensen however claims to be one of the first to recognise the value geotargeted social media campaigns could have to help solve crime and set out to prove his theory. In Chase Darkness With Me he documents several intriguing cases in which geotargeting, primarily using Facebook’s and Twitter’s ‘boost’ tools (funded from his own pocket), in combination with other methods, has assisted in generating new leads, and even arrests, in cases deemed ‘cold’ by the police. This, Jensen believes, is something anyone can do, and to that end he also provides tips and advice for anyone interested in becoming a ‘Citizen Detective’.

“We are at the precipice of being able to solve more cold cases than ever before…. we need to get loud. Start fund-raisers. Recruit volunteers. You reading this book are deputized. Go get a megaphone.”

I found Chase Darkness With Me to be absolutely compelling reading. I’m certain those interested in true crime, law enforcement or related topics, will also find it entertaining and informative.

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Available from Sourcebooks

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

Weekend Cooking: Margaret Fulton & Mini Pavlova’s

 

Last month, Australia lost one of its best-known food writers, Margaret Fulton, at age 94.

Margaret Fulton was a beloved national figure, awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1983 for her services to journalism and cookery. Credited with expanding the palette of Australian families, she was p, among other things, the the Food editor for Woman’s Day magazine for twenty years.

It would be rare to find an Australian kitchen that doesn’t include a cookbook by Margaret Fulton, she published 25 over a period of four decades. Her first book, a 1968 best seller, The Margaret Fulton Cookbook was revised and updated in 2017 as a 50th Anniversary edition. Other popular titles regularly reprinted include Margaret Fulton’s Baking Classics, and Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopedia of Food & Cookery.

Her memoir, I Sang for my Supper: Memories of a Food Writer was published in 2001.

Since pavlova is considered a traditional Australian dessert, I though this video of Margaret Fulton making some delicious mini pav’s would be fitting to include here. Enjoy!

 

Review: The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

 

Title: The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster

Author: Sarah Krasnostein

Published: October 2nd 2017, Text Publishing

Status: Read July 2019

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My Thoughts:

 

Sarah Krasnostein, law lecturer and researcher with a PhD in Criminal Law, first met Sandra Pankhurst at a conference for forensic support services, where Sandra sat in the lobby, advertising her Victorian based company, Specialised Trauma Cleaning (STC).

““This is what it says on the back of Sandra Pankhurst’s business card:

‘Excellence is no Accident’

Hoarding and Pet Hoarding Clean Up * Squalor/Trashed Properties * Preparing the Home for Home Help Agencies to Attend * Odour Control * Homicide, Suicide and Death Scenes * Deceased Estates * Mould, Flood and Fire Remediation * Methamphetamine Lab Clean Up * Industrial Accidents * Cell Cleaning”

Intrigued by Sandra’s profession, Sarah arranges an interview, but soon finds that Sandra herself, is equally as fascinating. The Trauma Cleaner is less a story about the chaos faced at the scenes STC attends, and more about the trauma that Sandra has endured, and overcome, during her life.

“Many facts of Sandra’s past are either entirely forgotten, endlessly interchangeable, neurotically ordered, conflicting or loosely tethered to reality. She is open about the fact that drugs have impacted her memory (‘I don’t know, I can’t remember. The lesson to be learnt is this: Do not take drugs, it f***s your brain.’). It is also my belief that her memory loss is trauma-induced.”

Sandra, born a boy and named Peter, suffered horribly as a child, neglected and abused by his adoptive family. Kicked out of home at seventeen, finding work as a fitter and turner, he was married at nineteen, and a father by the age of twenty. Shortly after the birth of his second son however, he deserts his wife, having finally discovered a community that is accepting of a long denied truth, Peter is transgender. What follows is a double course of female hormones, a career as a drag performer and a sex worker, a long period of partying, drink and drug taking, a series of name changes, sex reassignment surgery, and several relationships that do not end well. Eventually Sandra settles down, becoming a successful businesswoman, then a trophy wife to a much older man. But when she is widowed, Sandra is forced to reinvent herself again, and despite ill health (her liver is damaged, and she is in need of a lung transplant), she starts a domestic cleaning agency, which eventually evolves into Specialised Trauma Cleaning.

I imagine that Sandra is a woman who is in possession of great personal charisma, and it’s clear that Krasnostein grew to greatly admire her during the time she spent with her, evidenced by the way that the author largely glosses over Sandra’s flaws, and in the occasional florid turn of phrase that seems designed to obfuscate less palatable truths. However, Sandra’s life experiences are fascinating, and as flawed as she may be, she is undoubtedly a remarkable, resilient woman, who has led an extraordinary life.

“We specialise in the unpleasant tasks that you need to have taken care of.”

On the job with Sandra, accompanied by Sarah, we visit a handful of contracted assignments, among them; a woman tortured by mental illness who shares her home with rats, broken furniture and adorns the walls with ‘art’ that illustrates her pain; the small apartment in which a young woman overdosed, and remained undiscovered for weeks; and the home of a elderly woman with a carpet of champagne bottles, and barricades of wine casks. The squalor, and the smell, of these, and other circumstances, is well described, but for most of us can only be imagined. The type of work STC undertakes is clearly unpleasant physical labour, but it is also obvious that interacting with the clients of the service requires a person with a very specific set of skills, which Sandra undeniably possesses.

“Compassion. Great compassion, great dignity and a good sense of humor ’cause you’re gonna need it. And a really good sense of not being able to take the smell in, cause they stink. Putrid.”

Though I wanted to read The Trauma Cleaner because of a somewhat ghoulish interest in the subject of trauma cleaning, I wasn’t really all that disappointed to find that this book focused so heavily on Sandra’s personal life. It is, all told, a compelling portrayal of an amazing woman, and her unusual work.

++++++

Available from Text Publishing Company

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound I Book Depository

Review: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

 

Title: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: A Definitive How To Guide

Author: Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Published: May 28th 2019, Forge Books

Status: Read July 2019

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My Thoughts:

I’m a recent ‘Murderino’, which marks me as an avid listener of Karen and Georgia’s true crime/comedy podcast, My Favorite Murder. If you are not familiar with this weekly broadcast, Kilgariff and Hardstark each select a single murder, true crime story, or survivor story to recount and discuss in an empathetic but humorous manner. More recently the podcast has also featured Minisodes – which consist of audience write-ins detailing their near misses, or tangential relationships to murder cases; and broadcasts of their live shows. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered is their signature show sign off.

I probably shouldn’t have bought Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered without reading the description (though I likely would have got it anyway), because it wasn’t what I was expecting.

I wanted something more closely related to the podcast, a mix of true crime stories with reference to their patented advice such as ‘F*ck Politeness’ and ‘You’re in a Cult, Call your Dad’.

Instead this is largely a memoir/selfhelp book detailing the hosts’ dysfunctional childhood/adolescence/young adult years including their issues with addiction, eating disorders, mental health, and relationships.

It’s not that these stories aren’t interesting, or funny, and occasionally relatable (I was a latchkey kid like Karen, and I had a brief flirtation with kleptomania at thirteen like Georgia- a single Mars Bar I still feel guilty about), but stories like Georgia’s ‘red flag’ encounter, and the essay in ‘Stay Out of the Forest’, which includes some information about the murder of Michele Wallace, were probably closest to what I wanted.

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered is really a book for fans of the personalities of Karen and Georgia, those more interested in the true crime aspect of their podcast may be slightly disappointed. I did enjoy it, I just would have appreciated a different approach more.

Read an Extract

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Review: Wild Horses of the Summer Sun by Tory Bilski

Title: Wild Horses of the Summer Sun

Author: Tory Bilski

Published: July 1st, Murdoch Books

Status: Read June, courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

“My first connection was finding a picture of an Icelandic horse on Google. I looked at it everyday and I couldn’t think of anything else.”

Tory Bilski is In her early 40’s when she becomes obsessed with the idea of riding an Icelandic horse in it’s native setting. An Equitour whets her appetite but it’s not until she meets Eve, the owner of a horse farm in the Berkshires, that she is able to return to Iceland for the experience she has been yearning for.

Over a period of about ten years, for a week every summer, Tory accompanies Eve, and a group of up to eight women to Thingeyrar, an Icelandic horse farm owned by breeder and trainer Helga. It’s an opportunity for Tory to leave behind the stresses of ordinary life and connect with the wild horses under the midnight sun. Not every trip is blissful, some are marred by the weather, others by personality clashes, but Bilski is always eager to return, and this travelogue/memoir shares a little of her personal life, her friendship with the women with whom she travels, her experiences in Iceland, and her soul deep connection to the Icelandic horses.

“These were our tales, these were the times, these were the women, and this was the place.”

Icelandic horses are a special breed, its pedigree is mixed but unique to Iceland, which has not permitted the import of other horses for centuries. Though I have no particular love for horses, I do think the Icelandic breed is appealing, and they look wonderful galloping across the gorgeous Icelandic plains, long manes flying, despite their short and stocky stature.

Bilski writes well, and I found Wild Horses of the Summer Sun to be both an engaging and interesting read.

++++++

Available from Murdoch Books 

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

More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)

In this part-manifesto, part-memoir, the revolutionary editor who infused social consciousness into the pages of Teen Vogue explores what it means to come into your own – on your own terms.

Elaine Welteroth has climbed the ranks of media and fashion, shattering ceilings along the way. In this riveting and timely memoir, the groundbreaking editor unpacks lessons on race, identity, and success through her own journey, from navigating her way as the unstoppable child of a unlikely interracial marriage in small-town California to finding herself on the frontlines of a modern movement for the next generation of change makers.

Welteroth moves beyond the headlines and highlight reels to share the profound lessons and struggles of being a barrier-breaker across so many intersections. As a young boss and the only black woman in the room, she’s had enough of the world telling her – and all women – they’re not enough. As she learns to rely on herself by looking both inward and upward, we’re ultimately reminded that we’re more than enough.

 

 

Elaine Welteroth is an award-winning writer, and judge on the new Project Runway. She was most recently editor-in-chief of Teen Voguewhere she in 2017 became the youngest person ever appointed editor-in-chief and in 2012 had been the first African American ever to hold the post of beauty and health director at a Condé Nast publication. Prior to Teen Vogue, she was the senior beauty editor at Glamourand the beauty and style editor at Ebony. She’s now a leading expert and advocate for the next generation of change-makers. She has written for the hit show Grown-ishand has appeared on-camera for a range of media outlets including ABC News and Netflix. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Available from Penguin Australia

  • Published: 18 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781529105438
  • Imprint: Ebury Press
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $35.00

Review: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga by Todd Alexander

 

Title: Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga

Author: Todd Alexander

Published: February 23rd 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read May 2019, won via BetterReading.com.au

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My Thoughts:

I was delighted to win a signed copy of Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga to gift to my mother for Mother’s Day thanks to BetterReading.com.au. However I couldn’t pass it on without reading it first.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga is the story of Todd Alexander’s mid life tree change with his partner, Jeff, abandoning inner city living and highly paid careers, for a hundred acre farm in the Hunter Valley, to grow grapes, olives, and run a five star B&B.

Todd has dreams of channeling his inner Maggie Beer…cooking delicious meals from their own produce, sipping their own labeled wine, enjoying the spectacular views over their property, with Jeff by his side. After all, Todd is wont to say, how hard can it be?

It’s certainly not any where near as easy as Todd hopes. What do two gay city boys know about slashing acres of grass, empty water tanks, broken irrigation systems, eggbound chickens, and desuckering 12,000 grapevines? Not a lot as it turns out, but they are willing to learn, and determined to succeed.

There are failures and successes, mistakes and lucky breaks, all of which Todd shares with honesty and humour. I don’t envy them the years of renovation and building (though the results are stunning), or the back breaking work required to both maintain and grow a farm. But I enjoyed his anecdotes about both the joys and challenges of farm life, and particularly the affectionate descriptions of the couples beloved pets, like the titular Helga the pig.

Todd also shares information of a more personal nature, touching on his relationship with his children who are regular visitors to the farm, and I was moved by his support of his mother as she battled bowel cancer. He also discusses how his experiences as a farmer have resulted in him becoming vegan, and provides a dozen or so of his favourite recipes.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Named Helga is an entertaining and charming memoir, and might just inspire your own dreams for a new life, or at least for a nice glass of Semillon.

++++++

Available to purchase from Simon & Schuster

Or to purchase via Booko

 

Linking to #NonFictionFriday @ DoingDeweyDecimal

Review: One for the Books by Joe Queenan

 

Title: One for the Books

Author: Joe Queenan

Published: October 2012 Viking

Read: Read December 2012

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My Thoughts:

 

I had hoped Joe Queenan’s ‘One for the Books’ would prove to be an exception from the often stuffy, professorial tomes that wax lyrical about the joys of reading, as long as that reading is almost exclusively authored by, or about, Dead White Dudes (D.W.D).

In part it was, but unfortunately Queenan’s humour doesn’t quite negate his narrow definition of what ‘good books’ are. Queenan is a book snob, dismissing genre fiction almost in its entirety, and championing way too many D.W.D.

I was particularly frustrated by Queenan’s dismissive attitudes to libraries (his white male privilege is showing there), and his hatred of ebooks, and ereaders. I own about equal amounts of both print and ebooks, that brings my current total to somewhere over 4000 books. I have read many more, owned many more, borrowed many more, given away many more. I have, and I doubt anyone I know would dispute it, ‘…engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books…’ ,and I don’t care if they are written longhand on parchment, or are a complicated string of binary numbers…a book, is a book, is a book, no matter the format.

So, sadly, my search for a book from a self confessed bibliophile who isn’t contemptuous of the other 99% of readers continues.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

PenguinRandomHouse I Indiebound I Amazon US

Booko I Amazon AU

Review: The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by M.A. Orthofer

 

Title: The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction

Author: M.A. Orthofer

Published: April 19th 2016, Columbia University Press

Status: Read April 2019- courtesy CUP/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

I like to think I am an eclectic reader, I read widely across genres, a mix of fiction and non fiction, but the truth is I read very little other than English speaking writers from Australia, UK and America. It’s the primary reason I participate in at least one challenge each year that requires I read world fiction.

In an effort to expand my reading horizons, I was interested in browsing through this reference book.

A short introduction speaks to the traditional challenges that affect the publication of translated fiction. These include political, cultural and economic forces, however the phenomenon globalisation, the ubiquitous influence of the internet, and the resulting digital book market, is contributing to its accessibility.

Organised geographically, the Guide then identifies fiction from the mid 1950’s or so, providing brief descriptions about each regions noteworthy authors and their works that are available in English translation. A few titles might be familiar, but likely most will not.

For the curious reader looking to broaden their fiction experience The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction is an excellent resource, which can be supplemented and expanded upon by the authors website complete-review.com.

 

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Available to Purchase via

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Im linking up with DoingDeweyDecimal’s #NonFictionFriday

Review: Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes

 

Title: Making It Up As I Go Along

Author: Marian Keyes

Published: 11th February 2016, Michael Joseph

Status: Read March 2016, courtesy Penguin

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My Thoughts:

I’ve long enjoyed the works of Irish author Marian Keyes, including her Walsh Family series. Making It Up As I Go Along is a collection of essays, blog posts and articles, it’s the type of book you can dip in and out of.

Covering musings and anecdotes on diverse topics, from eyelash extensions to Christmas to Yoga there is something for everyone. Mostly amusing, though sometimes poignant and insightful, this is an easy, entertaining read.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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or your preferred retailer

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