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April 21, 2021

4 Nonfiction Books to Read

by Susan Roberts


I have started 2021 with a lot of non-fiction books and  I've already read more than 50% of my goal for the year in this category.

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The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman, Jennifer Jordan

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer
March 2021; Atria Books; 978-1982129477
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); true crime
“Can you keep a secret?”
“What kind of secret?”
“It’s something I’ve got in the woods...I only show it to my *closest* pals and chicks. Wanna see it?”

To say that Lisa and her sister Louisa had a dysfunctional upbringing is putting it mildly.  Their parents divorced when they were young and their mom was a real party girl.  She liked to drink and date anyone who would pay any attention to her and she frequently ignored her daughters.  She was mean to Lisa and it was very apparent that she preferred Louisa.  When they went to the Provincetown in the summers for her mom to make extra money working at her aunt's motel, she frequently went out and left her daughters with anyone she could find.  One of the people that babysat the girls was Tony Costa, the handyman at the motel.  He quickly became a favorite of the Lisa's - he frequently took the girls along on his drives and bought them ice cream.  Lisa thought that he was one of the few kind adults in her life and she loved to spend time with him. As we are learning about the nice Tony, the alternate chapters show the real Tony - a cruel and confused man who was a serial killer!  Lisa didn't realize until years later that the Tony she had such wonderful memories about was also the Tony who killed and dismembered his victims and buried them in the same place in the woods where he often took Lisa and Louise.

The way this story is written makes it a fantastic read.  In alternating chapters, the reader sees the way that Lisa is treated and how she tries to protect herself and take care of her sister.  The other chapters are Tony's story - the way he was raised, his first marriage, and all of the negative parts of his life that lead him to his life of crime.  He was a despicable person but he always treated Lisa well.

NOTE:  In the opening notes, the authors refer to this book as a 'hybrid work of memoir and narrative non-fiction. Liza's story is based on the memories of her childhood but everything about Tony is taken from the original records and source documents.

Buy The Babysitter at Amazon

Do Not Go Gentle. Go to Paris.: Travels of an Uncertain Woman of a Certain Age by Gail Schilling

Do Not Go Gentle. Go to Paris
August 2019; Indie; 978-1095653807
audio, ebook, print (203 pages); travel
"In 2010 thanks to an extraordinary confluence of events, I flew out of my life and into the daydream I'd been safeguarding for 40 years:  travel to Paris and a solo month in France.  I smile now as I remember how 'old' I felt at 62 - almost 10 years ago. "
(p 1)

With the pandemic, the only travel to Paris has to be mental travel and dreams and this was the perfect book to read to kick-start plans to travel to Paris on a solo trip.  This has long been one of my dreams but I felt like I was too old to take a trip like this -- Gail has convinced me that age shouldn't stop you -- all you need is an adventuresome spirit and curiosity about other people and places.  This book is much more than a simple travel book - though it does give a lot of travel tips.  It's a book that reflects on aging, family, love, and feeling good about yourself.  It was the perfect book to read and take a mental vacation all by myself.

Buy Do Not Go Gentle at Amazon

The Perfect Father: The True Story of Chris Watts, His All-American Family, and a Shocking Murder
by John Glatt

The Perfect Father
July 2020; St. Martin's;  978-1250231611
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); True crime
I'm trying to read some of the older books in my bookcases to start off the year and this one grabbed my attention.  It's a look at Chris Watts who killed his wife and two daughters in 2018.  This was a horrific unbelievable crime and the way the killer acted after the murders was unbelievable - he very calmly told his friends and family that his wife had taken the kids on a play date, he told the media that he wanted them back and hoped that they were safe - all while he knew that he had strangled them and disposed of their bodies.  The police noticed immediately that his demeanor was off - he didn't really act like a distraught husband and father, instead, he appeared calm and unaffected.  He was their prime suspect as soon as they interviewed him.  This was a very difficult book to read especially when it was about the little girls being murdered.  This man is evil personified and deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The book used interviews with friends and family but didn't really go into the deep reasons behind the murders.   What I didn't like is that the author continually made disparaging remarks about Shanann that I felt were almost blaming her.  Yes, even if there were problems in the marriage, they could have been handled without murder.

Buy The Perfect Father at Amazon

The Broken Miracle by J.D. Netto

The Broken Miracle
February 2021; All Heart; 978-1734381207
audio, ebook, print (226 pages); Biographical
"I belonged to an exclusive club with only one membership requirement: be born with half a functioning heart."  

We are all faced with hardships in our lives and we often let them rule our lives.  After you read, The Broken Miracle, you may look at your life differently.  When Paul Cardell was born, he only had half of a heart.  He had numerous surgeries and close calls with his health but he didn't let his condition rule his life.  He became a world-renowned pianist, recording artist, and composer despite his physical limitations.  His life is full of faith and love and miracles.  

This is the first of two books about Paul Cardell's life.  Be prepared for some tears but also for an uplifting story that can touch everyone.

Buy The Broken Miracle at Amazon

Paul Cardall (born April 24, 1973) is an American pianist known for his original compositions and arrangements of various hymns. His music is frequently categorized as Christian, New Age, Classical, and Religious. Cardall has had several recordings debut No. 1 on eight Billboard charts.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. What does it say about me as a person and a reader when the 2 books that interest me the most in this post are about murderers?! Actually, all four books sound good.