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A. C. Skinner

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  • reviews
  • 5
  • helpful votes
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  • The Stranger Beside Me

  • The Shocking True Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy
  • By: Ann Rule
  • Narrated by: Lorelei King
  • Length: 18 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,537
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,132
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,124

Ann Rule was working on the biggest story of her career, tracking the trail of victims left by a brutal serial killer. Little did this future best-selling author know that the savage slayer she was hunting was the young man she counted among her closest friends. Everyone's picture of a natural winner, Ted Bundy was a bright, charming, and handsome man with a promising future as an attorney. But on January 24, 1989 Bundy was executed for the murders of three young women - and had confessed to taking the lives of at least thirty-five more women from coast to coast.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Another Good One from Ann Rule

  • By Malia on 08-24-12

Good, not great

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

A few things stand out about this book, for better or for worse, when compared to Ann Rule's other works. Given when it was written there is some language and terminology used that is frowned upon today. The writing is still good but the fact that it's her first standalone book as opposed to a collection of shorter articles shows. Descriptions of the crimes and crime scenes seem detailed but are somewhat sanitized. I'm not sure if that's a result of complete information not being available to Rule at the time of writing, or if she chose to leave out some of the more gruesome details to make the book more palatable to a mainstream audience.

There is a lot of the author in this one. To be fair, that's one of the selling points - that Rule knew Bundy personally when he was in Seattle. However, there was a bit more about her kids, divorce, etc than I was initially expecting. Overall this was well written and informative, and an interesting view of a serial killer that the standard true crime based on interviews and police reports could never pull off.

All that being said, the narration nearly killed this one for me, no pun intended. Apparently all of the women in King's world are vapid and clueless and the men gruff and constipated. Unless of course they're Southern, in which case they twang everything instead. Several place names are pronounced oddly, particularly the PNW ones, and she puts a weird emphasis on 'Tallahassee' that makes me cringe every time the word comes up. For someone who grew up in Alabama and has lived in Seattle for eleven years it drove me up the wall so much it was only sheer stubbornness that got me all the way through. I will be avoiding this narrator in the future.

  • Spectacular Wickedness

  • Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans
  • By: Emily Epstein Landau
  • Narrated by: Lee Ann Howlett
  • Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 38
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 36
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 37

From 1897 to 1917 the red-light district of Storyville commercialized and even thrived on New Orleans' longstanding reputation for sin and sexual excess. This notorious neighborhood, located just outside of the French Quarter, hosted a diverse cast of characters who reflected the cultural milieu and complex social structure of turn-of-the-century New Orleans, a city infamous for both prostitution and interracial intimacy.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A fascinating [academic] read

  • By A. C. Skinner on 08-22-16

A fascinating [academic] read

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-22-16

The Book

First off, Spectacular Wickedness an academic work and it shows. For someone who enjoys non-fiction and has experience reading academic papers and such this is a great read, especially if you're already familiar with the turn of the century South. If you're just picking this up out of prurient interest and/or don't have any affinity for history, sociology, anthropology, etc, this is not going to be the book for you. This is not the book's fault; it does what it says on the tin.

Now that that's out of the way.

I really enjoyed this. I've never gotten to go to New Orleans, but I spent many months each summer in Mobile, another originally French-settled Gulf city, all the way through my teens. That influence is still there, even if not as pointed as in New Orleans, so it wasn't completely foreign to me going in.

I do feel that understanding race relations in the post-reconstruction South is essentially to fully grasping the reality of Storyville. Landau does touch on it, and to be fair the topic is several books worth of analysis on its own, but I feel given how much Storyville relied on sex tourism that expanding the historical concept would have helped.

The biggest issue I had with this book was that it was frequently repetitive. The fact that sex was for sale in Storyville and that Octoroons were a huge draw was explicitly stated at least three or four times a chapter. A more ruthless editor was definitely needed.

Where I felt the book really worked best was the chapter on Lulu White. After a plethora of exposition and analysis, Landau discusses the life of one particular madam, Lulu White. After a lot of general information this case study so-to-speak really crystallized that. It made me want to read more about the individuals in Storyville.

Another thing I liked was the bits of the story of jazz. Landau uses several quotes from jazz songs and performers to describe and contextualize Storyville and very unsubtly points out how our modern-day concept of the birthplace of jazz is incredibly shortsighted and sanitized.

The Narration

The narration for Spectacular Wickedness was solidly decent. Howlett's pacing was reasonable, pronunciation was mostly okay though I'm sure a New Orleans native could find things to pick at, and her tone was balanced. Another reviewer mentioned this was like listening to a good professor and I'd have to agree. I'd happily listen to other works from her.

Disclaimer

I received this audiobook for free in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are entirely my own.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Subversive Southerner

  • Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South
  • By: Catherine Fosl
  • Narrated by: Sara Morsey
  • Length: 19 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 8

Anne McCarty Braden (1924-2006) rejected her segregationist, privileged past to become one of the Civil Rights Movement's staunchest white allies. In 1954, she was charged with sedition by McCarthyist politicians who played on fears of communism to preserve Southern segregation. Though Braden remained controversial - even within the Civil Rights Movement - in 1963 she became one of only five white Southerners whose contributions to the movement were commended by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famed "Letter from Birmingham Jail".

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another side of the Civil Rights movement

  • By A. C. Skinner on 08-22-16

Another side of the Civil Rights movement

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-22-16

What about Sara Morsey’s performance did you like?

The narration starts off a bit weak, but within an hour or so it seemed Morsey really found her voice for this book. I appreciated the subtle differences in voice for quotes that didn't veer into actual character 'voices' that are so common in fiction narrations. She did use a rather specific and effective Southern accent/tone when reading quotes from Anne, which thankfully didn't drive me up the wall like so many television characters do.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

As interesting as it was, there was no way I could read this all at once. Given that Braden's work (and most of her life) was centered around the Cold War era struggle for civil rights and civil liberties there are a LOT of injustices detailed in this book that are frequently (and often simultaneously) heartbreaking and infuriating.

Any additional comments?

A surprising portion of Subversive Southerner is dedicated to Anne's upbringing in the South. At first I felt it was bordering on too much, but as the book progressed I found that detailed background helpful in understanding Anne's motives, her relationship with her family, and her interactions with others.

Anne's later life isn't explored nearly as in-depth, which is my only real complaint with the book. Fights for civil rights and civil liberties are still being fought and given that Anne literally worked as an activist until her death in 2006 I was hoping for a bit more detail regarding the last few decades.

That being said, for the events it does cover there is a lot of context given. It's not a straight up info dump, and Morsey does generally stick to relevant details, but there's a ton of historical information interspersed with Anne Braden's life and the book is the better for it. I learned a lot.

One thing I really loved, this being a biography of someone who was alive when it was finished, was the interview at the end with the author and Anne. That extra perspective was interesting and not something one usually gets with the typical historical biography.

This book was surprisingly personal to me. As someone born and raised in the South who moved up North at 25 to escape many of the things Anne fought against, it was an eyeopener into both how far we've come and how much farther we have to go. I wish I'd known about the Bradens' work growing up there because, being white, I didn't want to speak over people of color, but couldn't see a way to help much beyond examining my own actions and working to correct years of conditioning.

In all honesty Subversive Southerner should be subtitled "​How to Be an Effective Ally and Activist Without Making it All About You Even In the Very Unlikely Event Literally Everyone Else is Trying to Make it Be". As such, I'd highly recommend it to anyone - especially if you're white, straight, male, cisgender, ablebodied, or any combination of the above.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • When Evil Came to Good Hart

  • By: Mardi Link
  • Narrated by: JoBe Cerny
  • Length: 8 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 48
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 44
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 44

In this addictive true-life whodunit, author Mardi Link details all the evidence to date in the case of the Robison family murders. She crafts her book around police and court documents and historical and present-day statements and interviews, in addition to exploring the impact of the case on the community of Good Hart and the stigma that surrounds the popular summer getaway. Adding to both the sense of tragic history and the suspense, Link laces her tale with fascinating bits of local and Indian lore.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Compelling True Crime Read...

  • By Douglas on 07-03-16

Lots of potential sadly not met

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-29-16

How could the performance have been better?

This performance honestly bordered on infuriating for me. Cerny's voice itself fit the story great, and aside from one specific issue would have been a fantastic narrator. However, that one issue was a major one. I don't know if it was actually how he read it or some weird artefact of editing, but throughout the *entire book* he pauses frequently in the most random of places. As in at least two or three times a sentence and not even remotely where pauses would make sense, Think William Shatner on The Simpsons, but even more sporadic. Listen to the sample before you buy to decide if it's something you can personally deal with, trust me.

Could you see When Evil Came to Good Hart being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

I think this would make quite an interesting TV miniseries, though I'm admittedly already a fan of crime procedurals. There were enough aspects of the case that could easily be dramatized and given the time period and popularity of Mad Men it would likely do well.

Any additional comments?

The book starts out strong, with the author opening a window into the tucked away world of Good Hart and tying it to herself and the modern day rather effectively. We get a somewhat brief introduction to the family itself, followed by the crime scene. As the case progresses the focus shifts almost entirely to Dick Robison, his business dealings, and associates, one of whom becomes a primary suspect.

Towards the end of the story, as the timeline enters modern day, we learn about how the still unsolved case has continued to affect lives of those both directly and indirectly involved in the original events. This was probably my favorite part of the book and I'd have liked more in this vein.

And speaking of wanting more, it's not until the very end of the book that Link really talks about Shirley Robison as anything more than an attache to her husband, and the children get even less development. To me this seems a disservice to the rest of the family. Given that Dick Robison was portrayed as not the greatest guy, I didn't feel particularly sympathetic. Perhaps it was because I'd recently just finished Ann Rule's 'Green River, Running Red' where each [known] victim was really fleshed out (ugh that was not an intentional horrible pun I swear), but I think a more balanced look at the whole Robison family would have made this book much, much better.

Overall, 'When Evil Came to Good Hart' was decent but not great, narrative weirdness aside. One important thing about it is that this case is still unsolved, and in a world where true crime and procedurals abound, I think it's good to remember that not every murder ends up wrapped tight with a neat little bow.

Disclaimer: I received this audiobook for free in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are entirely my own.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Green River, Running Red

  • By: Ann Rule
  • Narrated by: Barbara Caruso
  • Length: 19 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,294
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,151
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,152

In the most extraordinary journey Ann Rule has ever undertaken, America's master of true crime has spent more than two decades researching the story of the Green River Killer, who murdered more than 49 young women. Green River, Running Red is a harrowing account of a modern monster, a killer who walked among us undetected. It is also the story of his quarry -- of who these young women were and who they might have become.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Suspenseful and chilling

  • By 9S on 07-02-11

Even scarier when you live there.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-11-16

Would you listen to Green River, Running Red again? Why?

Most likely, yes. I have an interest in forensic anthropology and technology and this case was quite interesting. Ann Rule's telling of events was made even better by her being a local (I am too, now) and, especially in audiobook format, felt like sitting at home listening to an acquaintance talking. YMMV on whether or not you actually *want* this in a true crime novel. A friend (also local) gave up reading this particular book halfway through because it creeped her out so much, even though she'd read and enjoyed many of Rule's other works.

What about Barbara Caruso’s performance did you like?

Caruso did a fantastic job in conveying the emotions presented by people without having to resort to exaggerated 'character' voices. The subject matter is disturbing at best and could easily have been sensationalized. Caruso found a great balance between clinical and dramatic.

She does seem to pause quite frequently, and for longer than necessary, particularly between sentences, but as the book went on this became less of an annoyance. She also mispronounced a small handful of place names, but given how many she got correct in an area with a massive number of non-English names this is also an incredibly minor nitpick.

Any additional comments?

It's a little mind boggling that the first Green River Killer victim was found a few months before I was born but he wasn't actually caught until after I'd graduated high school. In this day of advanced forensic science and police procedural TV shows I think we tend to underestimate the difficulty in catching criminals ten, twenty, thirty years ago compared to now.

I also found the two intertwining storylines, that of the investigation and that of the killer's life, an effective presentation. Many other true crime stories I've read follow the model of investigation > arrest > history of the perpetrator. The two simultaneous narratives that Ann Rule employs here seems better at helping the reader understand the killer's motives than just a big info dump towards the end.

  • Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies

  • On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities
  • By: Chris Kluwe
  • Narrated by: Chris Kluwe
  • Length: 5 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 93
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 88
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 87

"What is in my book, you ask? (I'm really glad you asked, by the way, because now I get to tell you.) Time travel. Gay marriage. Sportsballing. Futuristic goggles that DO NOTHING. Tiny brags from my publisher, stuff like: 'This is an uproarious, uncensored take on empathy, personal responsibility, and what it means to be human.' So please, join me in the glorious art of windmill tilting by reading this 'collection of rousing, uncensored personal essays, letters, and stories' (I have no idea why that's in quotes)."

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Listen, Great Book

  • By Eric Flapjack Ashley on 08-12-13

Not as good as I hoped but still pretty good!

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-31-14

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, but conditionally and in print as opposed to the audiobook. I respect Kluwe as a person and agree with most of his arguments, but I feel they could have been presented better. In this book he comes across as a bit try-hard which isn't entirely unexpected for someone attempting to follow up an explosive original short work, ie. the epic letter that set this whole thing off.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

It was reasonably paced. However, I find author-read stories to be hit or miss. Some authors are fantastic and others less-so. I'm afraid this is an example of the latter. I chalk it up to not having the narration experience of many other writers, understandable considering the guy's day-job. The narration felt stilted more often than not, with sentences sounding disconnected from the whole (which got more and more noticeable as it went on). I ended up having to play it at a faster speed just to make myself finish.

Did Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies inspire you to do anything?

All other complaints aside, this book was overall pretty good. It really does make you realize the importance of speaking up when you see injustice and standing your ground.