3 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · mystery · non fiction · suspense · True Crime

Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly | ARC #BookReview, #FirstNations #Violence #MeToo

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Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly

Rating: 3 stars 

Published: August 27, 2019 

Publisher: Viking 

Pages: 304 

Genres: non fiction, true crime, mystery

Recommend to fans of: true crime books, learning about violence against Indigenous & First Nations women, constantly learning 

 

Synopsis:

A gripping account of the unsolved death of an Indigenous teenager, and the detective determined to find her killer, set against the backdrop of a troubled city.

On August 17, 2014, the body of fifteen-year old runaway Tina Fontaine was found in Winnipeg’s Red River. It was wrapped in material and weighted down with rocks. Red River Girl is a gripping account of that murder investigation and the unusual police detective who pursued the killer with every legal means at his disposal. The book, like the movie Spotlight, will chronicle the behind-the-scenes stages of a lengthy and meticulously planned investigation. It reveals characters and social tensions that bring vivid life to a story that made national headlines.
Award-winning BBC reporter and documentary maker Joanna Jolly delves into the troubled life of Tina Fontaine, the half-Ojibway, half-Cree murder victim, starting with her childhood on the Sagkeeng First Nation Reserve. Tina’s journey to the capital city is a harrowing one, culminating in drug abuse, sexual exploitation, and death.
Aware of the reality of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, Jolly has chronicled Tina Fontaine’s life as a reminder that she was more than a statistic. Raised by her father, and then by her great-aunt, Tina was a good student. But the violent death of her father hit Tina hard. She ran away, was found and put into the care of Child and Family Services, which she also sought to escape from. That choice left her in danger.
Red River Girl focuses not on the grisly event itself, but on the efforts to seek justice. In December 2015, the police charged Raymond Cormier, a drifter, with second-degree murder. Jolly’s book will cover the trial, which resulted in an acquittal. The verdict caused dismay across the country.
The book is not only a true crime story, but a portrait of a community where Indigenous women are disproportionately more likely to be hurt or killed. Jolly asks questions about how Indigenous women, sex workers, community leaders and activists are fighting back to protect themselves and change perceptions. Most importantly, the book will chronicle whether Tina’s family will find justice.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Viking, and Joanna Jolly for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Like:
– the background and non judgmental explanation of the life circumstances that led Tina and her family to their current life situations
– The detective who was working to solve her murder.

Love:
– the book brings to light the important topic of violence against First Nations women

Dislike:
– A possible dislike for some people (not for me though) — the descriptions of the crime and her body when discovered. This is to be expected since it’s a true crime book.
– Nothing specific to dislike, but nothing was particularly amazing either.

Wish that:
– It held my attention more. The overall topic is interesting, but not phenomenal in the presentation.
– The story had lived up to its potential. It was such a complex, informative, must be discussed story, but overall it read as a little boring, especially for a true crime mystery book.

Overall, an okay book about an important but terrible event that occurred in real life. I’m so glad that Tina Fontaine’s murder is being discussed in the context of violence against First Nations women. An important topic, but unfortunately this book doesn’t do it justice in my opinion.

 

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4 Star Books · Book Reviews · crime · memoir · non fiction · True Crime

A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson | New Release #BookReview

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A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson

Published: January 29, 2019 

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Pages: 336

Genres: non fiction, memoir, true crime 

Rating: 4 stars 

Recommend to fans of: truly honest memoirs, true crime books from a different perspective

Foodie Vibes: barely anything, because you’re too stressed to eat

 

Synopsis:

What is it like to learn that your ordinary, loving father is a serial killer?
 
In 2005, Kerri Rawson heard a knock on the door of her apartment. When she opened it, an FBI agent informed her that her father had been arrested for murdering ten people, including two children. It was then that she learned her father was the notorious serial killer known as BTK, a name he’d given himself that described the horrific way he committed his crimes: bind, torture, kill. As news of his capture spread, Wichita celebrated the end of a thirty-one-year nightmare.

 For Kerri Rawson, another was just beginning. She was plunged into a black hole of horror and disbelief. The same man who had been a loving father, a devoted husband, church president, Boy Scout leader, and a public servant had been using their family as a cover for his heinous crimes since before she was born. Everything she had believed about her life had been a lie.

Written with candor and extraordinary courage, A Serial Killer’s Daughter is an unflinching exploration of life with one of America’s most infamous killers and an astonishing tale of personal and spiritual transformation. For all who suffer from unhealed wounds or the crippling effects of violence, betrayal, and anger, Kerri Rawson’s story offers the hope of reclaiming sanity in the midst of madness, rebuilding a life in the shadow of death, and learning to forgive the unforgivable.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Thomas Nelson, and Kerri Rawson for an ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

Like:

  • It’s about the infamous BTK killer without being too graphic
  • Shows how manipulative BTK was to even his own family
  • Interesting to read 
  • Sparked a conversation when I told other people what I was reading 

Love:

  • Get a different perspective than many other true crime books
  • The author gets to speak up about how her dad’s crimes impacted her life – seems validating

Dislike:

  • There was so many pages about a family hiking trip, early on in the book. It made some good points, but became redundant. 

Wish that:

  • I knew why there American society as a whole is fascinated by serial killers. 
  • The pacing was a bit better.

Overall, an interesting book that I would recommend to people looking to read about serial killers from a completely different perspective. 

 

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2 Star Books · Book Reviews · mystery · non fiction · True Crime

The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Killer by J. Reuben Appelman

 

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The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Killer by J. Reuben Appelman

Published: August 14, 2018

Publisher: Gallery Books

Pages: 288

Genres: true crime, non fiction, mystery

Rating: 2 stars

Recommend to fans of: dark twisted minds, unsolved crimes

Foodie Vibes: greasy diner food

 

Synopsis:

Enthralling. Gripping. Cinematic. Raw. A cold case murder investigation paced like a podcast, as visually stunning as a film, and as brave and personal as our darkest memoirs. J. Reuben Appelman cracks open one of America’s most notorious murder sprees while simultaneously banging the gavel on his own history with violence. A deftly-crafted true crime story with grit, set amid the decaying sprawl of Detroit and its outliers.

With a foreword by Catherine Broad, sister of victim Timothy King.

Four children were abducted and murdered outside of Detroit during the winters of 1976 and 1977, their bodies eventually dumped in snow banks around the city. J. Reuben Appelman was six years old at the time the murders began and had evaded an abduction attempt during that same period, fueling a lifelong obsession with what became known as the Oakland County Child Killings.

Autopsies showed the victims to have been fed while in captivity, reportedly held with care. And yet, with equal care, their bodies had allegedly been groomed post-mortem, scrubbed-free of evidence that might link to a killer. There were few credible leads, and equally few credible suspects. That’s what the cops had passed down to the press, and that’s what the city of Detroit, and J. Reuben Appelman, had come to believe.

When the abductions mysteriously stopped, a task force operating on one of the largest manhunt budgets in history shut down without an arrest. Although no more murders occurred, Detroit and its environs remained haunted. The killer had, presumably, not been caught.

Eerily overlaid upon the author’s own decades-old history with violence, The Kill Jar tells the gripping story of J. Reuben Appelman’s ten-year investigation into buried leads, apparent police cover-ups of evidence, con-men, child pornography rings, and high-level corruption saturating Detroit’s most notorious serial killer case.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Gallery Books, and J. Reuben Appelman for the book to review. As always, an honest review from me.

I’m a big fan of true crime books, but this one missed the mark for me. The entire book emirates terror and disturbing thoughts. It gave me the heebie jeebies while reading and left me feeling very unsettled for hours after. The weird disturbing vibes are not my thing.

While the author’s search to find the true killer of these unsolved crimes is noble, the writing comes across as a little too obsessed. Maybe you have to be to search out serial killers and pedophiles? Still, it’s good that someone’s investigating these crimes and holding people accountable.

Also, the bits about his personal life didn’t really need to be included, in my opinion. There were raw, authentic, and insightful. It felt more like a therapy session than cohesive thoughts to tie the rest of the story together.

Overall, The Kill Jar was not the true crime book for me. Way too disturbing and focused on the horrific details of too many predators. It’s not a bad book, but definitely not a good fit for me.

 

How do you shake off unsettling feeling from a book?

4.5 Star Books · biography · Book Reviews · True Crime

The Crate: A Story of War, Murder and Justice by Deborah Vadas Levison

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The Crate: A Story of War, Murder and Justice by Deborah Vadas Levison

Published: May 11, 2018

Publisher: WildBlue Press

Pages: 358

Genres: true crime, biography

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: true crime, books that honor and tell the stories of Holocaust survivors, justice being done, anyone with a conscience 

Read with food: a homemade Hungarian dish to appreciate the author’s roots . . . which I recently found out that the author has listed on her website! So cool! Hungarian Recipes

 

Synopsis:

After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust – in ghettos, on death marches, and in concentration camps – a young couple seeks refuge in Canada. They settle into a new life, certain that the terrors of their past are behind them. They build themselves a cozy little cottage on a lake in Muskoka, a cottage that becomes emblematic of their victory over the Nazis. The charming retreat is a safe haven, a refuge from haunted memories.

That is, until a single act of unspeakable violence defiles their sanctuary. Poking around the dark crawl space beneath their cottage, they discover a wooden crate, nailed tightly shut and almost hidden from view. Nothing could have prepared them for the horror of the crate’s contents – or how the peace and tranquility of their lives would be shattered.

Now, their daughter, Deborah Vadas Levison, an award-winning journalist, tells the extraordinary account of her parents’ ordeals, both in one of the darkest times in world history and their present-day lives. Written in searing, lyrical prose, THE CRATE: A Story Of War, A Murder, And Justice examines man’s seemingly limitless capacity for evil… but also, his capacity for good.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for a copy of the book. As always an honest review.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about the book. I’ve already recommended it to people, even before I had finished reading it. I will try my best to do the book and the people the justice it deserves in my review.

From the beginning I was blown away by the gorgeous poetic writing. I was captivated from beginning to end, as the author tells the story of her parents’ survival of the Holocaust, move to Canada, and eventual discovery of a woman murdered on their cottage property. The Crate is more than just the telling of crimes across history and their impact on people. It’s so impactful it’s almost intangible.

The author shares with us the stories of her childhood growing up in Canada with Jewish Hungarian parents who had survived the Holocaust. Through their stories we get a first hand look at the atrocities committed during the war, the strength of survivors, and effects these experiences had on their lives and their children’s lives. Her appreciation of her parents and their experiences is wonderful. She’s doing them a great justice by putting their stories down on paper. It is absolutely important that these stories, these individual human experiences are shared with the world before they are lost forever.

The book also tells the story of Samantha, the woman who was murdered and body was found hidden under the family’s cottage. The author related Samantha’s life experiences to some of the atrocities her parents experienced. After all, they’re all just human beings. The book honors Samantha’s memory. The chapters about Samantha didn’t pull me in as much as the rest. Possible because while they’re well researched, some aspects are not the author’s personal life experiences.

The book is incredibly insightful and does a great justice by telling the stories of her parents, the other Jewish people in the Holocaust, Samantha, and her family.
It shows humanity at its best and at its worst.
The Crate by Deborah Vadas Levison is on my unofficial must read book list of the year.

 

What books have absolutely impressed you lately?

 

5 Star Books · Audiobooks · Book Reviews · mystery · non fiction · True Crime · Uncategorized

Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Published by Harper on February 27, 2018

Pages: 328

Genres: true crime, non fiction, mystery

Rating: 5 stars

Recommend to fans of: true crime

Read with food: strawberries and homemade whipped cream ~ this food choice really has nothing to do with the content of the book, but I was listening to the audiobook while washing and processing the strawberries from my garden, so those foods and this book will forever be linked for me 

 

Synopsis:

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark —the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

Review:

I’m obsessed with this book!

Everyone I’ve talked to about it, loves it as well. As I was listening to the audiobook version, my mom was asking me about it too.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a methodical, obsessive, and intriguing search for the Golden State Killer. She takes us through his crimes, the police investigations, and her painstaking research. I don’t think there are enough words to accurately convey how much I enjoyed this book.

As a true crime book, it discusses the crimes without going into unnecessary graphic detail. She does justice for the victims and their families, first through her blog and then through her book. Michelle helped so many people even after her death.

At the time of publication the killer had not been identified or taken into police custody. A few months ago both happened, and it’s so satisfying. Almost immediately after finishing reading I searched for news articles and videos about his capture.

I so, so recommend giving this book a read!

 

Question for you all:

If Michelle McNamara were still alive today, what would you tell her about her book and the real life capture of the Golden State killer?