Book Review: Sole Survivor

Sole Survivor: The Inspiring True Story of Coming Face to Face with the Infamous Railroad KillerSole Survivor: The Inspiring True Story of Coming Face to Face with the Infamous Railroad Killer by Holly Dunn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We continue our true crime streak today.

I first came across Holly Dunn’s story a few years ago on an episode of 48 Hours. I was floored by her resilience then and when I saw she was writing a book to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her survival, I knew I had to read it.

Dunn is the sole survivor of a terrible serial killer known as the Railroad Killer. Angel Maturino Resendiz is suspected of killed 23 people across the United States and Mexico over a 20 year period. Through luck and quick thinking Dunn was able to live through her terrible encounter with the Railroad Killer and she’s gone on to help countless survivors of rape and violence.

While Dunn’s story is incredible and moving, the book was a bit long and more conversational in tone than well written. Some have complained the book glosses over the aftermath of the attack, which is true. If you wanted a book solely focused on the crime, this is not for you. This book is about Dunn’s recovery, her faith in God, and her life now. There is a heavy religious element to this book and readers need to be aware that there is some witnessing happening.

Overall it was not a bad book. Holly Dunn is an inspiration and a powerful survivor and that is worth more than anything.


Book Review: Beauty in the Broken Places

Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and ResilienceBeauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience by Allison Pataki

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was given an advanced copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It’s scary to think that every single person on this planet could suffer a traumatic brain injury that will irreparably alter their plans for the future. Most of us get lucky and never have to face this conundrum, but Allison and her husband Dave are not so fortunate. Dave suffers a terrible stroke deep in his brain and must re-learn how to be a person again and at the same time, Allison gives birth to their first child while raising her husband from his own infancy.

Pataki writes with so much emotion–I could feel her agonies, her frustrations, her joys. This book was an incredible work. Even though I am not religious, I honestly sat back and thought about Pataki’s deep faith in God and what I would do in such a situation. I realized that I would pray to every deity out there. No sense in not stacking the deck in our favor. I love a book that makes me re-evaluate my own beliefs and goals in life. Pataki’s Beauty in Broken Places did just that. Fantastic!

Book review: In Full Color

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White WorldIn Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Dolezal

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I don’t like Rachel Dolezal.

Despite my personal misgivings, I am a knowledge-seeker so when the opportunity to read Ms. Dolezal’s book presented itself, I took it. I even went into the venture with an open mind, ready to hear her side of things before passing judgment. Unfortunately, reading the book only solidified my feelings that Ms. Dolezal lives in a world of her own creation and feels persecuted by those outside of it (which is nearly everyone).

I will say that Dolezal had a horrific childhood and endured more than any child should. However, some of the claims in her book leave me dumbfounded. She highlights growing up in rural Montana where there were no black children. She didn’t even know such a person existed until she was given a National Geographic magazine as a young teen. Yet at the same time she knew she was inherently black. She compares doing manual labor on her family farm to being a chattel slave which is preposterous. This goes on and on throughout the book and rather than presenting a well-rounded view of society, it comes off as whiney and at times delusional.

Regardless of whether Dolezal is delusional is beside the point here. What the book does present is a well-rounded view of her experience. I was able to see exactly how she came to believe what she does and it is clear that her identity crisis started from a very young age. Her story is a very interesting psychological study in that sense this is a very good read.

Storms Reback is the only saving grace in this whole thing as the book is actually very well written. I’ve argued before that good writing can make a terrible book readable and it holds true for this one as well. I wouldn’t have finished it otherwise. Rather than paying for the book, just read some news stories on Dolezal and you’ll have all you need to understand her.

Godspeed, America.

It might surprise some people to learn that I spent many years planning to join the army.  I would work out in my room every night before bed doing 1000 sit-ups, 1000 push-ups, 1000 jumping-jacks, and running in place for 30 minutes.  Even my plans for veterinary school tied in with my dream of becoming an officer with the Army Corps of Veterinarians.  Unfortunately, celiac disease crushed those dreams.

Now, I spend my time researching the best ways to protect the cultural heritage of the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria.  I’m working towards a graduate degree in Museum Studies and Non-Profit Management.  My entire future is looking towards preventing war and working with our allies, and even our enemies, to protect our human heritage.

I consider myself to be extremely patriotic though I’m sure many Republicans would argue with me on that.  On the eve of an inauguration that threatens everything I have worked for and everything I believe in, I am afraid for my country.  I am hoping beyond hope that Trump will succeed, certainly not in fulfilling his campaign promises, but in leading America through a storm of his own creation.

At this time, I implore everyone to reach across the aisle and work together in every way.  We need each other desperately right now.  We cannot be men, women, conservatives, liberals, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim any longer.  We must go forward as humans and do what is best for humanity.


Book Review: Revival

Warning: Contains language

Revival: A NovelRevival: A Novel by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had to take some time to process this book before I could actually write a review because my only thought upon finishing Stephen King’s Revival was: WHAT THE FUCK?!

A couple of weeks later I’m able to put together several semi-coherent thoughts on what I think is King’s best novel in recent years. I’m an “old school” King fan. I tend to set the bar kind of high for new King novels since Carrie, Pet Sematary, and The Shining are some of my favorites. Needless to say, I’ve been a bit disenchanted with King’s new novels…until now.

Revival takes the reader on a journey through 50+ years of Jamie Morton’s life. It begins innocently enough, as young Jamie plays in the dirt with his toy soldiers. Yet, from the moment the shadow of Charlie Jacobs passes over Jamie’s Mountain, it is clear that no good will come of this meeting. Reverend Charles Daniel Jacobs comes to town with a passion for the Lord and electricity. He uses both for good, breathing life into the small church and healing Jamie’s brother with electric medicine after an accident. When Charlie Jacobs suffers his own trauma, however, everything starts to go south for the young pastor.

I was torn through much of the beginning, Jacobs seemed like a man lost after tragedy, but I could not shake the feeling of unease that fell over me whenever he reappeared. That is the feeling that makes this book so compelling.

Revival is just what the title implies: a revival of good ol’ Stephen King horror. It’s not in your face horror, it’s in your mind. One of the scenes that will always be stuck in my head involves a dream Jamie Morton has after being “cured” by Reverend Jacobs. I don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that the worse part are the sounds and tactile feelings described rather than the sights.

There are a couple of issues that I have with the book. First, it had a tendency to be a bit slow. I got bogged down in the monotony and the details, some of which I felt were unnecessary. The thing that kept me going was the knowledge that something WAS going to happen and it was going to be BIG. This brings me to my next issue: the ending. I’m not going to give anything away but everything leading up to that pivotal moment was electrifying (pun intended). The climax happened pretty much the way I thought it would but somehow managed to still catch me 100% off guard. Seriously. What. The. Fuck.

That moment alone made the book worth reading.

Not going to lie, this book might be a little upsetting for the religious folks. It takes a hard, uncomfortable stance on miracles, the church, God, and the afterlife. Then again, it would be a Stephen King novel if it wasn’t upsetting and uncomfortable.

Revival is a tale of obsession. Whether one is obsessed with a hobby, an addiction, religion, or finding a cure for what ails them, this novel seems to serve as a warning. Humans don’t need to know everything about the universe and what lies beyond. Sometimes, questions are better left unanswered.