Tag: Nonfiction

Audiobook Review: The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice on Death Row
Author: Anthony Ray Hinton

Narrator: Kevin R Free
Published: March 27, 2018
Audiobook: 9 hours 11 minutes

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Listened To: January 20-25, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

A powerful, revealing story of hope, love, justice, and the power of reading by a man who spent thirty years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit.

In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free.

But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence—full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon—transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015.

With a foreword by Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.

Jessica’s Review:

It’s hard to believe that this story is true!  This memoir telling Anthony Ray Hinton’s story is a shocking true story of injustice. In Alabama the mid-1980s he was found guilty of multiple murders and a jury sentenced him to life in prison.  The judge changed his sentence to death. I had no idea that judges could do that! What’s even worse is that Anthony Ray Hinton was 1000% innocent and evidence even showed that.  Even more of a travesty was that he spent almost 30 years of his life on Death Row!

Yes, Hinton did have a little bit of a criminal past, but nothing even close to murder! The state of Alabama even knew that he was innocent but still wanted to execute him.  It did not matter that the real killer was out there. The evidence even showed he was innocent: He was at work on the night of one particular murder and he worked 20 minutes away from where the crime happened! His mother’s gun had not been shot in 25 years, and he even passed a polygraph which unfortunately not admissible in court. Mr. Hinton was a young black man in Alabama.  And he did not have money.  Most people on death row are poor. Yes, most are guilty, but the injustice that Mr. Hinton suffered over the 30 years just leaves a poor taste in your mouth in regards to our justice system. 

We do get to see what life on Death Row was like for Hinton and the others.  He tells us everything. He spent his first three years silent.  Over time he saw many men executed and he tells the readers what the inmates did when another was in the process of being executed. Over the course of his thirty years the death penalty changed from electrocution to lethal injection.  At one point in his time inside the inmates were to form a book club and talked books! That brought joy to this book lover’s heart.  They were able to pass books around to each other and talk books.

Over time we see the losses that Mr. Hinton deals with, and what could bring anger, hatred, and more to an innocent person spending all that time inside. The reader gets to experience Mr. Hinton’s mental ‘escapes’ and meeting the queen of England and ‘marrying’ several famous actresses.  I hope he was actually able to meet at least one of these women in real life! I listened to the audiobook version and once he was finally released on April 3, 2015, I raised my hand in victory! The travesty of the injustice he experienced just angered this listener.  The narrator was Kevin R Free and he brought the perfect voice to Hinton in narrating this tragic real-life story.  Hinton’s life story is one everyone must read or listen to. I would love to hear him tell his story in person one day.

Here are some quotes from the memoir:

“He was a poor man in a criminal justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent.”

“My mama always told me that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

“No one can understand what freedom means until they don’t have it.”

Hinton’s story just makes you think about the innocent ones on death row who have been executed and who are currently there now.  Our justice system really needs to be looked at. For me it is far worse for someone innocent to be imprisoned than a guilty person walking free. What happens if someone is found innocent and they spend all that time in prison. 

This is a memoir that stays with you and leaves you thinking.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Audible Original: I Choose Darkness: A Holiday Essay by Jenny Lawson

I Choose Darkness: A Holiday Essay
Author: Jenny Lawson

Narrator: Jenny Lawson
Published: September 29, 2022
Audiobook: 38 minutes

Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Listened To: October 22, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars     

Book Description:

From cheap costumes to creepy dolls to questionable candy, number one New York Times bestselling author Jenny Lawson weaves a hauntingly hilarious account of her ongoing—sometimes outrageous—Halloween life.

The holly-jolly holidays aren’t for everyone, least of all when you look back on that one Christmas when there were two definitely haunted dolls waiting for you and your sister under the tree. You have to assume that’s where it all started.

And so it was for Jenny Lawson. Now, she lives in the land of eternal Halloween, as evidenced by her interior decor and general state of darkness. (Although, if you ask her, her taxidermy zoo is less dark, more delightful. But not everyone has taste, so what are you going to do?)

This essay takes Jenny back to where it all started, from her humble beginnings as a trick-or-treater in the 1980s, on high alert for (logistically improbable) candy laced with razor blades and the (allegedly) ever-present threat of satanists on the loose. From there, she has risen from the candy-wrapper ashes of her childhood to claim her rightful lifestyle as the queen of Halloween.

Jessica’s Review:

This very short self-described essay popped up for free on my Audible, so I got it. I had no idea who Jenny Lawson is, so I didn’t know what I was in for but was very pleasantly surprised! Halloween is Jenny’s favorite holiday of the year and she reminisces and her childhood Halloween’s.  And we must be close to the same age, babies of the 1980’s, because I have so many similar memories as her! From the hideous costumes offered to the fear of razor blades being put in candy: and yes, I remember my parents taking my sister and I to the hospital and our candy being x-rayed!  I had a plastic orange pumpkin container that my candy was in.  It was most likely done at the hospital that my mom worked at.

I really enjoyed this essay of Jenny’s Halloween memories and she even narrated! She tells it like it is, foul language and all! I am going to have to look up some of her other books she has written and even listen to the audio if she narrates those! She definitely seems to have a new fan to look at her blog!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Audiobook Review: When Animals Rescue by Belinda Recio

When Animals Rescue: Amazing True Stories about Heroic and Helpful Creatures
Author: Belinda Recio
Narrator: Hayden Panettiere
Published: December 15, 2021

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: March 17-18, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars     

Book Description:

 A Collection of True Tales of Animal Empathy and Altruism that will Inspire Us to Reflect on Our Own Human Nature
What do stories about humpback whales protecting a biologist from a shark, a pride of lions rescuing a girl from kidnappers, gorillas working together to dismantle poacher snares, a parrot warding off an attacker in a park, a chimpanzee consoling a human, and an elephant trying to rescue a baby rhino tell us about animal nature? And what might they suggest about our very own human nature? 
Until just a few decades ago, there were only a few animals reported to behave empathetically and altruistically. More recently, the list of species who have been observed behaving in compassionate, helpful, and caring ways has grown exponentially, ranging from rats to elephants.
When Animals Rescue presents dozens of astonishing and heart-warming stories about animals, such as chickens, horses, dolphins, and wolves, who engage in acts of helpful kindness. During a time in history when studies show that human empathy is decreasing, our knowledge about animal empathy is increasing. These true tales of heroism, kindness, and compassion suggest that we have far more in common with other animals than we once believed and provocatively suggest that what’s best about our human natures just might be our animal natures.

Jessica’s Review:

This book is for every animal lover! And it will work for kids too!

A collection of real-life stories that show how animals can show compassion, kindness, and dare I say love???  And this is not just to their own species, but other species that they may not normally ‘cooperate’ with/ live with.  And yes, this includes their actions to us humans, who may or may not show compassion back to the animals. 

This book shows how smart animals truly are.  Those of us with house pets already know this, but you might think differently about the opossum or even hippopotamus! That is until you read this book! 

The stories range from the expected with dealing with dolphins, whales, cats and dogs to the unexpected as I just mentioned and more including bears, parrots, and crows.  The chapters are short and work for quick trips in the car or for an extended drive.  The chapters are easy to understand for all readers and this book is age appropriate for young children who I imagine would love the stories even more so than the adult animal lover.  The narrator is Hayden Panettiere and she does a good job in her narration. 

When Animals Rescue does leave you thinking about the extent to the intelligence and more of animals and where we humans as animals would fit on the scales of all emotions and feelings. 

Many thanks to the publisher who sent me an e-audiobook version to listen to via NetGalley. 

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK