You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane is a 154-page nonfiction book/set of essays scheduled for publication by Little A in September 2016. I received the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent coverThroughout the book, James Duane explores why someone–especially someone innocent–should never talk to the police (and instead should repeat “I want a lawyer”). The content of the book is a bit dry–he uses case histories of people who have been wrongfully convicted or have given false confessions. But Duane livens up the content with some excerpts from his lecture, “Don’t Talk to Police.”

My favorite excerpt is an exercise where Duane outlines a fictional crime report and then asks four questions about the report. I only got three of the four questions right, and I can absolutely see how hours of misleading questions and interrogation might drive someone to (mistakenly or not) give false information in a criminal investigation. I was astounded at some of the case examples and the examples of how incredibly vague many federal statutes are, allowing for much interpretation in court.

Though there were few humorous moments in the book, I liked that the overall tone was outrage and disbelief–at how efficient the police are at dragging confessions out of innocent people (false confessions aplenty), at the precedent set of holding a defendant’s use of their Fifth Amendment rights against them as evidence of guilt, and at the broken state of USA’s legal system in general. However, Duane does get a little overzealous at times, using plenty of exclamation points and calling large groups of people morons and idiots.

After watching Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” (true crime docuseries about Steven Avery’s wrongful conviction for sexual assault and, upon release from prison, near-immediate conviction for murder), reading You Have the Right to Remain Innocent was especially gratifying. For any who haven’t seen the series, the point is made that the police used coercive and appalling interrogation technique’s on Avery’s 16-year-old nephew. This book discusses at length the ways police are allowed to lie to the public about investigations in order to “catch” someone in a lie, which follows up incredibly well on the outrage of watching “Making a Murderer.”

Granted, I work with administrative rules (which implement federal statute) for a living, but I think that anyone who enjoys true crime stories, anyone who wonders why false confessions happen, anyone who’s interested in finding out what happens when you voluntarily enter a police station as a suspect in a criminal investigation, or anyone who thinks that if you are innocent you have nothing to hide would both learn from and enjoy this book.

TITLE: You Have the Right to Remain Innocent
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AUTHOR: James Duane
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PAGES: 154
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ALSO WROTE: Various scholarly publications, “Don’t Talk to Police”
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FIRST LINE: In the past five years, I have spoken dozens of times to thousands of individuals around the United States about the right to remain silent.
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FAVORITE LINE: But the federal trial judge, and later the court of appeals, overlooked that [police officer’s] deception because they felt the defendant should have known from prior experience with the criminal justice system that the police cannot be trusted, and that “there were limits on the authority of detectives to bring lesser charges or offer a shortened sentence.”

BONUS LINE: When the federal agent was advised that my client would not talk to him unless he was willing to put his questions in writing, he angrily replied that he refused to interview anybody that way, and she has not heard from him in months.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer is 432-page speculative fiction novel, published by Tor in May of 2016. I received the book from NetGalley for review.

Too Like the LightningI requested this novel from NetGalley because I loved the cover and the title font. So yes, I judge books by their covers. Luckily, I wasn’t burned–Too Like the Lightning turned out to be a slow-burning, thought-provoking story.

The beginning of the novel crawls a bit since the narrator, Mycroft Canner, is actually a historian from 2454 who sets up the reader for a history that takes place in the reader’s past (see the first line of the book below). It took a few chapters to get used to Mycroft’s manner of speaking and story telling–there are plenty of “thee”s and “thou”s in the book, thanks to the future’s use of language (they’re also partial to using Latin). The payoff for this slow build is absolutely worth it.

Ada Palmer’s worldbuilding is ridiculously thorough. Background information is disbursed so well throughout Mycroft’s narrative that when a character first twists the norms, I was surprised to feel utterly shocked. I applaud Palmer’s ability to create a set of cultural norms so ingrained in the plot that I would feel affronted when those norms are bent or broken. The world is organized into Hives, which evolved from a desire to end territorial disputes. These Hives replace nations and encourage people, once they reach adulthood, to join a community that aligns with their personal beliefs and interests. Similarly, the “nuclear family” ideal has been destroyed–people now choose their own adopted family of sorts by joining or creating a bash’ of like-minded people.

Through Mycroft, the reader becomes acquainted with the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash’. This prestigious bash’, which directs nearly all automobile traffic in the world, has its own juicy secrets scattered throughout the story. Mycroft himself seemed a bit humdrum at first, but through staggered revelations (like an early reveal that he is a servicer–someone who “works” for all humanity as a sentence for committed crimes), he quickly became one of the most interesting characters.

Though the characters are many and all are fascinating, the strength of this novel truly lies in the slow, massive buildup of politics, culture, and ideologies that are shattered by the end of the novel. Too Like the Lightning is a genre bender (sci-fi? Spec fic? History? Mystery? Thriller? Philosophy? Yes.) that covers a ton of ground  in just over 400 pages. This book is so large in scope that to summarize it would be to almost miss the point. Mycroft’s asides to the reader regarding the background of events and their ramifications may slow down the plot, but they were definitely necessary to explain the political and cultural complexity of Palmer’s world.

It’s been quite a while since I wanted to reread a book immediately after finishing it–Too Like the Lightning definitely demands a reread, which I’m sure will reveal even more depth to the world that I didn’t catch on the first go around. This book was something I wasn’t aware was missing from sci-fi, but it’s opened my eyes. I hope it will encourage others to explore the “future-historical-science-fiction” genre, because that is something I would love to read more of.

TITLE: Too Like the Lightning
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AUTHOR: Ada Palmer
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PAGES: 432
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ALSO WROTE: Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance
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FIRST LINE: You will criticize me, reader, for writing in a style six hundred years removed from the events I describe, but you came to me for explanation of those days of transformation which left your world the world it is, and since it was the philosophy of the Eighteenth Century, heavy with optimism and ambition, whose abrupt revival birthed the recent revolution, so it is only in the language of the Enlightenment, rich with opinion and sentiment, that those days can be described.
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FAVORITE LINE: You can make a sculpture of a tree out of metal, or glass, or wood, but using wood doesn’t make your sculpture a tree, it makes it a tree-shaped artificial object made out of the hacked-up pieces of a dead tree.

BONUS LINE: I am the window through which you watch the coming storm. He is the lightning.
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SORT OF LIKE:

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1) Elantris (Elantris, #1)

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Vinegar Girl is a 237-page contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. It is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare retelling collection.

Vinegar Girl Kate (a strong independent woman who don’t need no man) is just shy of 30, gardens and works at a preschool, and is constantly in trouble at work for lack of discretion when talking to the children’s parents–definitely a character I can get behind. Bunny, 15, is Kate’s ditzy sister. Their father, Dr. Battista, is a scientist working with autoimmune disorders alongside his research assistant, Pyotr. More

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is a 305-page sweeping historical/cultural fiction novel written by Yaa Gyasi, published by Knopf in June of 2016.

HomegoingI wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, but what I got was a mind-blowing experience. The novel follows the lineal descendants of half-sisters Effia and Esi, born in eighteenth-century Ghana. Each chapter features the successive descendants of these women, from eighteenth century Ghanaian slavery to twentieth-century Harlem. More

But What if We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

But What if We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman is a 288-page nonfiction book published by Blue Rider Press in June of 2016. I received the book from Penguin’s First to Read program.

But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck KlostermanThis book is a collection of essays and arguments revolving around a central theme–looking into the past with eyes colored by the present. Klosterman presents arguments ranging from future cultural popularity (who will define rock music–The Sex Pistols? Bob Dylan? Chuck Berry?) to scientific theories (will our theory of gravity seem as preposterous to future humans as the geocentric model of the universe seems to us?). More

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On is a 522-page fantasy novel by Rainbow Rowell, published by St. Martin’s Griffin in October of 2015.

23734628Simon Snow, a wizard in his eighth year at Watford School of Magicks lives with his evil, vampire roommate Baz and is constantly worrying about and fighting against the Insidious Humdrum. The story shifts between Simon, Baz, and their friends Penny and Agatha’s points of view. More

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is a 376-page speculative fiction novel originally published in 2003. I listened to the audiobook, written by Margaret Atwood (who always has really interesting stuff going on), read by Campbell Scott.

18415437Jimmy (also known as Snowman) is the protagonist of this eerie story, which is about Jimmy’s past life experiences with his strange, genius friend named Crake, and the enigma of a woman named Oryx–framed by Snowman’s current existence in a post-apocalyptic world.

In this new world where humanity has been decimated by a plague, Snowman may be the only human left. That is, besides the Crakers (strange human-like beings with glowing eyes and primate-like mating behaviors) and the genetically designed murderous animals. More

How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High by David Bienenstock

How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High is a 288-page nonfiction novel published by Plume in April of 2016 (I can’t believe they missed out on publishing on 4/20!). I received a free copy of the book from Penguin’s First to Read program.

How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting HighThe novel begins with a succinct history of cannabis and goes on to discuss everything from humanity’s use of the plant in spiritual rituals, medicine, and daily life to the entrepreneurial efforts and scientific research of cannabis taking place today.

Bienenstock provides a fantastic and fascinating overview of the possibilities of cannabis–relieving patients who are suffering, community growth, and rapidly growing business opportunities. A plethora of careers–from budtenders (serving customers at a weed dispensary) to tourist endeavors (hotels and entertainment)–become possible with ending cannabis prohibition. It’s brilliantly argued that tourists (of states like Colorado) buying weed with no legal recourse to take the plant out of state would be more than happy to stimulate the local economy by seeing shows, eating at local restaurants, and staying in a hotel during their trip. The discussion on the history of legislation and stigma surrounding cannabis is a little indignant, but also quite accurate. More

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The Grownup CoverAfter reading plenty of negative reviews, I was expecting a bit of a let down with this novella, originally published in George R.R. Martin’s Rogues anthology in 2014. However, since I’ve devoured every other book by Gillian Flynn, I decided to read The Grownup as a standalone book anyway. I surprisingly and happily enjoyed this creepy little treat quite a bit.

As usual, Gillian Flynn creates an in-your-face, kickass female protagonist–this one reads auras and gives hand jobs for a living. I loved the up front way the narrator (her name is never given) discussed men and what they desire, while also being a little disturbed by it. Though that frankness IS what appeals to me in every Gillian Flynn novel. She gives just enough polish to allow for surprise at the dark and disgusting undertones. More

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me?Why Not Me? is a 228 page memoir published by Crown Archetype in September of 2015.

This novel is body-conscious and thoughtful and much less funny than Mindy Kaling’s previous book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I definitely agree with Kaling–this novel is basically an exposé on her character flaws. While she is a very *real* woman (although with slightly *unreal* celebrity problems), I don’t find I have much in common with her, which may have tempered my enjoyment of this. More

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood is a 352 page thriller/mystery published by Harvill Secker in July of 2015. I listened to the audiobook read by Imogen Church.

In a Dark, Dark WoodFirst, I must note that Church is a FANTASTIC narrator. I will definitely seek out other work she’s done. A large part of what I loved about this story is the suspense she created.

As for the plot: When Nora receives an email requesting her presence at Clare’s weekend-long hen night (a sort of bachelorette party?), she is shocked. Nora makes a pact with her friend Nina to go together to avoid the awkwardness guaranteed from not having spoken to Clare in a decade. More

2015 Favorites Roundup Part 2

In continuation from Part 1, these are the books that I loved reading last year but were published pre-2015. While I did manage to read some new books, mostly I read whatever caught my fancy at garage sales or wonderful library book sales (a whole BAG OF BOOKS for $1!). These are my three favorite “old” books that I read in 2015–okay, I cheated on the last one because it’s actually a series, but what are you going to do about it?


A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is about a Canadian writer named Ruth finding a washed up diary in a lunchbox (from the 2011 tsunami) of Nao–a 16-year-old girl from Tokyo. Through Ruth’s reading of the diary, we learn about Nao’s disturbingly cruel classmates, her resolve to commit suicide, and most importantly (in Nao’s mind), her Buddhist nun great-grandmother.

I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I cannot praise her performance enough–it was fantastic to experience Ozeki’s knowledge of Japanese language and culture. The novel itself is fantastically meta, weaving the past with the present and writing, thoughts, and dreams. Nao’s sections of this book were wonderfully weird. Full of aching beauty and thoughtfulness, this is easily one of my favorites for the year. Get ready for some pervy stuff, though. If that’s not your thing, you might want read something else. More

2015 Favorites Roundup Part 1

I read the most books I’ve EVER read in one calendar year in 2015 (133 books!). Although I read a lot of older books, I did manage to catch some that were fresh off the press.

These were my top three favorite books published in 2015.


The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2)The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the sequel to The Queen of the Tearling–a post-apocalyptic fantasy about the descendants of a group of people that travelled from American to England.

Queen Kelsea is now dealing with the effects of breaking the treaty with Tear’s neighbor, Mortmesne. Johansen steps up her game in the sequel by adding a second point of view, told through Kelsea’s visions of a woman (Lily Mayhew) dealing with pre-Crossing troubles in America. She also excels at conveying a wealth of truth in how young women actually think. Kelsea becomes such a beautifully, refreshingly real woman. I highly recommend this series. More

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive CoverLuckiest Girl Alive is a 352 page thriller/mystery published by Simon & Schuster in May 2015. I listened to the audiobook version, read by Madeleine Maby.

Since this book is considered a mystery, I’ll avoid too much summary to prevent spoilers. Ani (Tifani FaNelli) is an editor at a well known women’s magazine looking forward to marrying Luke, a man of status and old money. She wants to forget about her dark past at school and mediocre status so she attempts to create an entirely new personality for herself, known as Ani. Besides flashbacks, that’s pretty much the entire plot of the book.

Considering half her time is spent fretting about which expensive outfit will make her look the most ragamuffin or how best to starve herself and how much she wants to binge eat, it might not seem like Ani cares to think about her past. But once a man from her days at school appears, More

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies is a 390 page fiction novel published by Riverhead Books in September 2015.

Fates and Furies coverI wanted to review Fates and Furies because of the acclaim it received this year and the fact that I think it’s highly overrated. Normally I avoid writing negative reviews because I know each book has its audience, even if I’m not part of it. I felt compelled to write this review because while the novel is touted as being masterful and literary, the pretension of it makes it my least favorite book of 2015.

The plot revolves around the marriage of Lotto (Lancelot) Satterwhite and his lovely (okay, interesting-looking) French wife, Mathilde. They get married after two weeks of dating, have rad parties, pay lots of bills even though only Mathilde has a job, keep dark secrets, and do all sorts of other marriage-y things. The first part of the book, Fates, is told through Lotto’s point of view and sets up their perfect marriage. The second, Furies, is told through Mathilde’s point of view and breaks it down into the nitty gritty. More

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