Review: The Charming Predator

The Charming PredatorThe Charming Predator
Author: Lee Mackenzie
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre/Themes: Memoir, Non-fiction, True Crime
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

Synopsis

She was a capable and confident young woman, studying broadcast journalism and honing her skills of observation and objectivity. She was also a little unworldly, the product of a small, rural Western Canadian community where doors were never locked and life was simple and direct. On a backpacking trip in the UK, she met the man who would become her husband. A man who everyone agreed was one of the most intelligent, charming people they had ever met. Easy to like, easy to believe. Easy to love. A man without mercy who shattered her emotionally, psychologically and financially.
Decades later, Kenner Jones is at large today, having committed crimes around the world under a series of fake names and personas. He has been described by a seasoned US immigration officer as “the best conman I have ever encountered.”
No one got closer to Kenner Jones than Lee Mackenzie. In The Charming Predator, he is unmasked for the first time.

Review

Unfortunately, this was a book I was unable to finish. I really hated giving up on this book, but it was really hard for me to connect with the main character, even though we’re both from the same place.

The premise of this novel was intriguing, and I wanted to know how a smart woman could have been duped by such a terrible conman. The problem was that after the prologue and the first chapter, I just found myself not connecting to either the main character, Lee, or her writing style. For a book such as this, the writing needs to be really engaging, and I felt that it was lacking. I got about halfway through the second chapter before I stopped. I mean, it was really obvious that Kenner was a liar and there were just so many warning signs that went ignored.

There isn’t a lot else for me to say about this novel. I just didn’t feel like reading it any longer.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

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Mini Reviews 11

The Devil and Miss Prym – Paulo Coelho

The Devil and Miss Prym

I’ve only read one of Paulo Coelho’s books before, The Alchemist. I really disliked that novel because I’m not a huge fan of philosophy or spiritual books. However, there were a couple more books that sounded interesting by Paulo Coelho, so I decided to add them to my TBR. I did enjoy The Devil and Miss Prym more than I did The Alchemist, but I still wouldn’t classify it as a book that I liked. There were some beautiful passages, and a few things the characters said really spoke to me, but overall, it was a strange novel. I did enjoy the setting however. There was something really beautiful in the descriptions of the small town where this book takes place. I think if you enjoyed The Alchemist, you’ll enjoy this novel too.

The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls

I made a huge mistake listening to this book on audio. I’ve been hearing amazing things about this novel as well as Lauren Beukes’ latest book, Broken Monsters. The problem with the audio was that I absolutely despised the male narrators, and if you dislike the narrator, it sort of ruins the book for you. The story itself is unique and I haven’t read any novels about a time travelling serial killer before. Some of the scenes are very graphic, and sometimes the story is hard to follow (though that could have been a side product of the audio book again). The book is very dark, and the language and choice of words is suitably graphic and violent. I actually liked all the characters, except Harper of course. I felt like I had to know what was going to happen next, and the climax of the novel was great. I recommend the novel for those that like dark, graphic books about murder, but I don’t recommend the audiobook at all.

Beware That Girl – Teresa Toten

Beware That Girl

I’m still not sure how I feel about this book, but the longer I think about it, the more I realize I didn’t enjoy it. I liked the character of Kate, but I despised Olivia. Kate always seemed so tough and sure of herself. Olivia drove me nuts almost immediately. The plot is also a let down. This book was marketed as a thriller, and I would not classify it like that. I don’t know what this book is, but it’s not a thriller. There were some characters that I thought were caricatures and I found myself having to suspend disbelief over and over again. It’s a ridiculous story with ridiculous characters. There are parts that are unsettling and deeply disturbed me, but there’s really nothing likeable or redeeming about this novel. I don’t recommend it at all.

Columbine – Dave Cullen

Columbine

This is an incredibly well-researched novel. I learned so much about the Columbine shooting after reading it. I was quite young when it happened and I never understood the magnitude of the effect of Columbine. I felt so heartsick while reading this book because I can’t imagine the fear and the panic this community went through. I also learned a lot about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris and their families. I never felt any sympathy for the shooters, but I did for their families and friends. I can’t imagine the hate they must have received after all this happened. Unfortunately, Eric and Dylan have left a terrible legacy, but this book discussed everything related to them and how they came to do such an atrocious thing. This novel is powerful and moving. I teared up multiple times while reading it. Highly recommended.

Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

Dark Places Unfortunately, this book was not as enjoyable as Gone Girl. Gillian Flynn’s sharp and acerbic writing is still on point, but even though the characters were as richly complex as the characters in Gone Girl, I hated them all. I couldn’t stand Libby or any of the members of her family. Lyle amused me at times, but there was nothing redeeming about any of them. They were all such liars and terrible human beings. However, the plot was riveting  and I didn’t see the end coming at all. Gillian Flynn created another incredible book, but I don’t think she’ll ever be able to top the genius that is Gone Girl.

Mini Reviews 6

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

'Salem's Lot Reading Stephen King’s writing is a delight. He’s a master with words and he creates these really vivid settings and characters. He writes these really creepy scenes that make you shudder and want to take a break from reading, but unfortunately, this book didn’t scare me. I didn’t realize this book was about vampires when I started reading it and since I’ve never found vampires very scary, I was unimpressed. However, the writing was great and the characters were all fully developed and very interesting to read about. I enjoyed the plot and liked the interactions between all of the different characters and I even enjoyed reading about the history of the small town, but I was never scared, so as a horror novel, it isn’t one I would recommend.

I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban I believe there are people who come into this world to do great things, and Malala Yousafzai is a prime example of such a person. I consider her to be a personal hero and an inspiration. Her goals of achieving literacy and education for all young women in Middle Eastern countries is one I firmly stand behind. I truly believe that the reason for most conflict is due to a lack of education.

This book was a harrowing account of what led her to be shot in the head by the Taliban and how she recovered from such a senseless attack. She clearly laid out the events that brought the Taliban into the Swat Valley, and how they misrepresented themselves to the inhabitants to such a degree that they gained popularity almost overnight. It showed how desperately people want to believe that there is someone who will fight for them.

However, I think this was a pretty superficial account of Malala’s life. I felt like there were quite a few things she never discussed and even though she talked about the terrible conditions she and her family lived in, I felt like it was much worse and she didn’t go into the ugly details. Additionally, I wasn’t as interested in the history of the Swat valley, Pakistan, and Afghanistan but I recognized why talking about the history was important.

Overall, I think this is a must-read book for anyone who believes in women’s rights, education, literacy, and wants to know more about the political regime currently in Pakistan.

 Dead Set – Richard Kadrey

Dead Set Oh boy, was I disappointed by this novel. I absolutely love Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, but his venture into writing a young adult novel was extremely unsuccessful. The plot was nonsensical and the characters were soweakly written that it’s almost shocking that the Sandman Slim series is by the same author.

I was bored throughout the entire book, hated the myth and story behind it, and would not recommend it at all.

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings This is the first book by Maya Angelou I’ve read and I thought it was immensely powerful. There are some scenes in this book that are extremely graphic (i.e. there’s a scene of child rape), and I found it stomach churning. Reading other reviews for this book, I noticed there were some (white) parents who wanted to shield their children from reading this book due to the graphic content.

Are you kidding me?

This is Maya Angelou’s memoir. These things actually happened to her and to “shield” your children from reading this book is a disservice to them. Life isn’t pretty, and growing up non-white in a world that reveres it is an ugly thing to read about, but it’s necessary. I felt Maya Angelou’s anger and fury almost like it was mine. I understood exactly what drove her to write this book, and it’s an important reason.

This is a must-read for everyone.

Review: Wild – Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State–and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

When I read books about women my age doing things I would never dream to do, I’m filled with envy, but reading about Cheryl Strayed’s decision to repair herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was both empowering and sad. After her mother dying, her marriage dissolving, and becoming a heroin user, she was at her lowest point and decided to hike the PCT without having any backpacking or hiking experience.

There are a lot of mixed reviews about this book because people think Cheryl Strayed was shortsighted, idiotic, self-absorbed, and made some bad decisions. While I was listening to this book on audio, I found myself annoyed by some of the decisions she made, but I didn’t judge her for them. Her life had fallen apart, she was distant from her family, and she was being self-destructive. She isn’t the first woman to respond to grief that way, and I doubt she’ll be the last.

I liked Cheryl, and this story was utterly moving. She was extremely honest and brave while writing about all her decisions, good and bad. She didn’t see her trip through rose-colored glasses, she didn’t hide anything or deceive the reader by making herself seem smarter than she was. She was up-front with just how utterly unprepared she was to hike the PCT and the ugly results of her long journey on her, both physically and psychologically.

This was a really well-written, interesting, engaging book and I enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend it to others.

The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson Review

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that changed America Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham’s challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair’s incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

I really disliked this book. It was too wordy and descriptive and I went into it thinking it was going to be an interesting true crime novel, and it turned out to be a historical novel. I think the biggest problem was that there were two narratives, one about the building of the White City, and one about the murderer, Dr. Holmes. I obviously found the Dr. Holmes chapters far more interesting, but the majority of this novel wasn’t about him.

I only enjoy narrative non-fiction when it’s true crime, and this was pretty disappointing. While I appreciate the amount and the depth of Erik Larson’s research, I think a lot of the narration was based around speculation. There’s no way to know how the characters were feeling, but Larson makes assumptions about their innermost thoughts and feelings.

He’s also entirely too descriptive. He bogs down the pacing of the novel with these useless facts and it makes slogging through the book a chore. I had to give up about halfway through. While I know this book has a lot of fans, I only recommend it to those who love history and want to completely immerse themselves in the minutiae of the building of the White City and what happened after. Otherwise, this book won’t hold your interest.