Friday, June 27, 2014

Most mystery readers were probably quite familiar with the works of Anne Perry when, in 1994, it was revealed that she had served time for murder as a teenager in New Zealand in the 1950s.  Her identity was revealed when the film Heavenly Creatures revived interest in the case.  The book Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century takes a comprehensive look at the crime, the trial, and the lives of the main players in the story today.

Juliet Hulme (as Anne Perry was then known) and Pauline Parker became very close while attending a girls' school in New Zealand.  Juliet's father was a well-respected scientist who had moved the family from England to take up a position as leader of Canterbury University College.  Juliet was very intelligent, but had suffered from a variety of health problems from a young age.  These problems meant that she was frequently separated from her parents.  She was sent away several times "to convalesce," always away from her parents.  This caused a lack of parental attachment which the author, Peter Graham, claims helped to shape her personality.  Still, her family was quite well-off and cultured compared with the family of her new friend, Pauline.  Pauline's parents, Herbert and Honora Rieper, turned out not to have ever married, which meant that when charges were eventually filed against her, she was listed under her mother's maiden name of Parker.

The Rieper family lived in a less-affluent neighborhood (not even a pony!) and took in boarders to make ends meet.  Pauline's father was a manager at a restaurant, which caused her to be referred to in the press as "the fish shop girl."  Pauline had also had health problems as a child.  This meant that Juliet and Pauline were the only two girls who were exempt from sports.  During sports classes at school, the two girls sat together and developed a friendship.  Eventually, they began to share their mutual love of books, films, and music, and even to collaborate on their own poetry and novels.  They also acted out their works.

As Graham relates it, at first, the haughty Juliet insisted on being the center of attention and ordering the somewhat awe-struck Pauline around.  However, the girls eventually developed such a close, exclusive relationship that the headmistress of their school warned their parents that their relationship was not healthy.

Since Anne Perry did eventually become a popular writer, it's interesting to think about what might have happened if the girls had been allowed to continue their odd and intense friendship.  No doubt, it would have burned itself out in time as they developed other interests.  Juliet was certainly university material, while Pauline had already dropped out of school.

A crisis developed which radically altered the lives of everyone involved.  Juliet's mother had developed her own career as a family "relationship counselor," hosting a popular radio program.  This didn't stop her from having an affair with a man named Bill Perry.  Perry eventually even moved in with the family, further highlighting the odd interpersonal relationships in the Hulme household.

Juliet's father, while a brilliant scientist, was less than successful as a college administrator, and he was informed that his contract would not be renewed.  Faced with the loss of his job and his wife, he decided to return to England.  On the way, he planned to stop by South Africa and once again deposit Juliet with relatives.  The girls were frantic at the thought of being separated.  No doubt to avoid a scene, Juliet's parents seemed to encourage the idea that Pauline could go to South Africa with Juliet.  They never had any intention of allowing this, however.  Pauline's mother was adamantly against the idea, refusing to even consider it.  Since she was the (apparently) only obstacle to the plan, the girls decided she had to die.

Both girls kept diaries detailing their plans.  After the murder, Juliet's mother was able to destroy her writings before the police started searching the house, but Pauline's journal made for interesting reading.   The girls apparently thought they could bash Pauline's mother on the head with a brick in a sock once, which would cause her to instantly fall down and die.  When that didn't happen, they resorted to a brutal attack, both alternating between holding her down and hitting her.  Their story of the mother falling and hitting her head wasn't believed for an instant.

The girls were convicted and sent to separate prisons.  Since they were juveniles, they only served 5 years before being released and given new names.   The author is able to trace where they went after being released.  Since Anne Perry was already somewhat in the public eye, she has given some interviews about her past.  Hillary Nathan, as Pauline is now known, has been much more private and reclusive.

The book was very interesting, especially if you are somewhat familiar with the case or have seen Heavenly Creatures.  The only part I didn't like was when the author went too in-depth into the writings of the school girls.  It did go to show their state of mind at the time, but it made for some tedious reading!  Other than that, the book was a really fascinating look at an unusual true crime case.

Final Verdict for Anne Perry and the Crime of the Century: Four Gherkins, for being a detailed look at the lead-up and aftermath of a horrific crime



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Many young people have ideas about earning money, but need help refining those ideas into a money making opportunity.  The new book The Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting & Running a Business gives budding business-people valuable information on how they can get started. The author, Steve Mariotti, has over 25 years of experience in teaching young people how to start their own businesses.

The book offers advice on all aspects of getting started in the marketplace.  The first part of the book deals with setting up a business and covers such topics as how to find opportunities and how to raise money.  Further chapters concentrate on how to find customers, dealing with financial aspects of owning and running a business and expansion.  The many examples of financial forms are extremely useful for people who've never had to deal with accounting before! The final chapter includes a very detailed sample business plan.

I especially liked that the book incorporated many sustainable ideas and suggestions sprinkled throughout the chapter under the heading "Green Tips."  There are also "Tech U" sections which discus how various technology (videoconferencing, apps, software, etc.) can be used to assist the budding business.  The author also recommends many classic books that offer advice and inspiration for anyone just starting a business.

Many "Entrepreneurs Like You" and "Super Success Stories" are included to showcase successful businesses, how they were started, and how the creative people behind them got started.

You can preview the book by clicking "A Look Inside."

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dave Ramsey is know to millions of people for his radio and TV programs which help people get out of debt using "common sense" solutions to money problems.  His daughter, Rachel Cruze, has joined the family business and spends her time speaking to (mostly) young people in order to educate them about how to be successful with money and stay out of debt.  The new book Smart Money Smart Kids, a joint collaboration between father and daughter, is filled with strategies to help parents give their children a strong financial base so that they will be able to enter adulthood with a good knowledge of financial principles.

Anyone who listens to Dave Ramsey's radio program will be familiar with his story:  as a young husband and father, his real estate business collapsed and he had to declare bankruptcy.  As a result of this traumatic event, he developed his rules for dealing with money, including always do a monthly budget, never borrow money, be a giver, etc.  Rachel was only 6 months old when her parents experienced their financial collapse, but she grew up with the lessons her parents learned through bitter experience.

The chapters in the book deal with such topics as Work, Save, Give, Debt and Budgeting.  Both authors alternate with stories and advice in each chapter, so we get to hear from different perspectives.  I really like the way real examples are provided.  For instance, they recommend giving kids "commissions" for completing chores around the house, starting at about age 4.  This will help kids to understand the relationship between work and money, instill a sense of pride in a job well-done, and allow kids to experience the reality of using money they earned to buy something they want.   The toy they're after might not look so attractive when they realize how long they'll have to "work" to earn the money to pay for it!

There is also a very detailed and motivational chapter about paying for college.  The average student today graduates from college with $27,000 in student loan debt.  That means they are in debt before they even start their careers.  It should come as no surprise that the Ramseys are completely against taking out any type of student loans, so they give options for students and parents to consider to raise money for college, which includes lots of ideas no matter how late the project starts.

I really enjoyed all the practical and detailed advice and suggestions offered in the book.  With all the easy credit available these days, teaching children how to deal with money (and be happy with what they have rather than responding to all the marketing messages they receive) is a vital job for parents.  The guidelines offered in this book will make that job much easier!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Smart Money Smart Kids from the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for this review

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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