I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

November 3, 2018

ibgitdSerial killer books, yaaaa!! If you didn’t know, the serial killer this book is about has had many names over the years – the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and most recently, the Golden State Killer.  The name that’s stuck recently and been fairly ubiquitous is Golden State Killer (GSK), so I’ll refer to him as that from now on. The GSK committed at least 13 murders, over 50 rapes, and more than 100 burglaries during the 70’s, mostly in Sacramento and Contra Costa county in CA. Then, during the 80’s he struck in SoCal, near Orange and Santa Barbara counties.  Seriously, I’m surprised if you were alive during those decades and made it out alive. Serial killers were everywhere.

The identity of the GSK was pretty much unknown until April of this year (2018).  I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was published in February.  Unfortunately the book was published posthumously, after Michelle McNamara died of cancer about two years prior to the publication.  The capture of the GSK was pretty fascinating. Apparently a relative of his submitted her DNA to an ancestry website, and the police matched her DNA with the GSK’s.  They were able to confirm the DNA was a match by following the suspect and obtaining his DNA. McNamara actually addresses the possibility of using these widely used DNA companies to find the GSK, but I think she had the same thoughts I did.  I was under the impression that those DNA companies are not able to use the DNA in that regard, but I guess they are (#thisiswhyancestrytestscantbetrusted – seriously, read the fine print about what they can do with your data).

Anyway, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is an interesting book.  Some of it is pieced together by authors after McNamara’s death.  I didn’t think that detracted from the quality of the book though.  Unlike most crime books I’ve read, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is heavily focused on the experience of the victims.  It goes into lots of detail about what the GSK did to them, but I found it to not be as gruesomely described as it could have been.  She describes what happened in a way that makes you feel for the victims, but are not overwhelmed by the severity and harshness of the crimes.  It is a fine line to cross.

While I felt I’ll Be Gone in the Dark didn’t really make any shocking developments in the case, it was an interesting read.  It’s almost uncanny how police were unable to catch this guy for so long and there were so many pieces of evidence. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was a short, fairly easy read and goes into McNamara’s experience when writing the book as well and researching the GSK.  It was not as fact and evidence based as other crime books I have read, but was still a worthwhile read.


The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

September 29, 2018

the good daughterI picked up The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter from a friend’s car.  I thought it was a book my boyfriend suggested I read and I mentioned that to my friend, so she told me to take it.  “It’s not the kind of book you read twice,” she said. She was not wrong.

I don’t think my friend meant that comment because The Good Daughter was not good.  I actually very much so enjoyed reading this book, and I don’t think I’ve read a book this fast in a while.  The previous book I was this enthralled with was 11.22.63. She meant in the way that it’s very dark, intense, and a bit disturbing, so proceed with caution.  It addresses school shootings, murder, death, and sexual assault. I’m hearing myself saying these terrible things happen in the book, but that it was excellent and I realize that is crazy.  It’s a very good read and written in a way that makes you want to keep going to find out what is going to happen next. I felt like I wanted to find out what happens next to the characters, even if that was something sad.  It is similar to a Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train type scenarios, but darker. Although I’m saying I enjoyed it, about ¾ of the way through something that happened to one of the characters was revealed and it really made me sad.  It was disturbing and made me slow down a bit. I’m almost a bit disappointed it was added, to be honest. However, I kept going because I wanted to learn about the ending for the characters I had come to know.

While not the most uplifting read, I found The Good Daughter interesting and captivating.  I would recommend, but proceed with caution if any of the above situations I mentioned will upset you.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

September 2, 2018

murder on the orient expressTL;DR – The movie version of Murder on the Orient Express came out in late 2017, so I wanted to read the book!  I don’t think I’ve ever read an Agatha Christie novel, either, and I know this is one of her most famous ones.  I don’t have much to say about Murder on the Orient Express.   To be honest, I didn’t really find it that thrilling and thought it was quite repetitive.  I didn’t feel any suspense in trying to find out the killer and Christie didn’t do a good job instilling in me why I should care. I guess I’d read this book if you want to read a “classic” and don’t like more hardcore crime/mystery novels.  It really didn’t take very long to read and is short, so it’s not a huge investment.  I’m sure people love this book, so maybe I need to stop reading Gone Girls and Yous or watching so much 48 Hours Mystery…desensitizing myself.  I dunno.  Personally, I’d skip Murder on the Orient Express.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

September 1, 2018

white trashAnother long-timer on my to-read list right here.  I also came across White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America in a bookstore at some point and added it to my list of books to read.  I was still in my non-fiction love affair and although I’ve been trying to read more fiction, I didn’t want to discount this book.

White Trash was, in short, a very academic read.  I expected this though because we start the book in pre-colonial times.  If you are a US history buff, you will enjoy this. I typically enjoy US history, so I didn’t mind.  However, it might be a bit much if you’re not into US history because it reads like a history book. I learned some interesting things about how North Carolina was the poorer state (vs South Carolina) because it did not participate as heavily in slavery as well as some interesting, but not surprising, things about Andrew Jackson.  (This actually made me feel better about our current political climate, TBH. Do some research about Andrew Jackson and you’ll understand.).

Anyway, while I thought this part of the book was very interesting, I was more excited to get into modern times (think 1920’s and beyond).  Unfortunately, that part of the book was outrageously short! It glossed over the 60’s, Reagonomics, the Clinton administration, which left me a bit disappointed.  These are the time periods I felt I would have really been able to absorb and relate to because they are closer to the present day.  For sure pre-colonial, revolutionary, civil war, etc times shaped who we are today, but the more recent time periods have also been an important part of our history, too.

Either way, I thought White Trash was an interesting read and would recommend if you like US history.  I was a little disappointed, but overall it was a very factual, but still enjoyable, book.  I think you’ll learn a lot about how our country was structured and how different classes have come about and evolved throughout US history.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

July 23, 2018

the handmaids taleI waited over a year to read this book. My boyfriend started randomly watching the Hulu series and got really into it. I don’t remember if he read the book first or not, but he was really enjoying the show. This was exciting for me because he hasn’t found a show he’s really liked since Breaking Bad, and that ended five years ago. I actually refused to watch The Handmaid’s Tale with him because I wanted to read the book first (I gave him my blessing to watch without me). Even though he thought the book wasn’t really anything to write home about, I still wanted to read it first.

It took me a while because the series made the book really popular (again? I’m not sure how popular it was when it came out in the 80’s) and it was always out at the library. BUT now I have a Kindle! That makes the holds have significantly less wait times. Anyway, I read The Handmaid’s Tale and thought it was an interesting read. It is pretty quick and easy to read, even though the content is a bit heavy. It is written in a way that you almost feel removed from the situation, so it was not as intense as the TV show (which I have since watched). Although it’s written in a first person point of view, it’s not really in the present time and I felt like I was almost above the story watching it with the narrator, and not actually in the story as I feel with other books.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a very poignant social commentary and I found the book to be a good foundation for the series. The series is most definitely 10000x more terrifying and interesting, but I’d recommend reading the book if you haven’t already. It is for sure just as thought provoking as the series and sometimes less thriller-like distractions make a stronger impact.

IT by Stephen King

June 24, 2018
itIf you looked up “tome” in the dictionary I think IT might come up as the first book listed.  IT is almost 1500 pages long (depending on the version you read).  When I was in college working at my movie theater job, I read a lot of books.  There was a lot of downtime between the movie rushes, so I took that opportunity to read.  Thankfully smartphones weren’t really a huge thing yet so I didn’t have that to distract me.  Although I diiiiid sneak in a portable DVD player a few times.  My boss had mixed feelings about that.   IT was one of the books I tried to read since I went through a period where I decided to read a lot of Stephen King novels.  I think I got about 300-400 pages in and I gave up.  For some reason or another I wasn’t into IT and I couldn’t fathom finishing IT.

Fast forward 10 or so years and there’s a new IT movie!  I was very excited about the movie, so I asked my boyfriend to grab me the book at the library.  Take note, this was about two weeks before I had plans to go see the movie.  Clearly, I forgot how long the damn thing is because he brought it home and I immediately started laughing.  There was no way I was going to finish this thing in two weeks.

Anyway, I tried to read as much as I could before I saw the movie, but I only got about 300 pages in.  This was September.  Fast forward to the end of May and I finally finished.  I did end up reading a few other books in between because there was always a waiting list for IT, but when I finally got a Kindle, the wait lists didn’t take long.

Even though IT took forever to read, I really enjoyed IT.  I think IT is definitely meant for long sessions of reading though.  There’s a lot to take in, and in true Stephen King fashion, every character has an intense and detailed back story that we have to learn.  IT could have been easily shortened by a few hundred pages.  However, the story is great and very well thought out.  I didn’t find IT very scary; more creepy than anything.  I found a lot of the superfluous story lines distracting from the core story.  If Stephen King wanted to keep the book as long as it was, I felt there were a lot of other things he could have written about, like more of Pennywise’s backstory.  I found the end of the book, which was the climax and height of the action and story to be very confusing because the story was bouncing between the past and present day in a very confusing way.  I didn’t feel like it was completely clear what year it was and who’s perspective we were reading from, so that drew away from the suspense of the end.

I wouldn’t expect to be terrified by IT, but it definitely was an interesting read.  I didn’t really find the movie that terrifying either, although I thought it was fantastic.  If you’re going to read IT, take the time to sit down and really digest the book.  IT’s not good for reading on short subway rides or while you’re waiting for something.  IT is an experience and I’d recommend IT for anyone who loves a good [long] story.

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

March 21, 2018
black flagsSo I relapsed a bit and went back to non-fiction books.  Not exclusively, though!  Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS is the first non-fiction book I’ve read in a while.  I have a few others I’d like to read as well, but I am still enjoying all the fiction books I’ve been reading.

Black Flags as a pretty intense book.  It chronicles the origins, formation, and current state of ISIS.  I had a pretty good idea of how the organization came to be, but this book gives a very interesting in-depth look at ISIS, starting back to a little before 9/11 and the Iraq War.

Saying I enjoyed reading this book is a weird word to use because it’s not about a fun or nice topic, but I did enjoy it in the sense that it was interesting and informative.  I sometimes felt a little lost because of all the specific details and variety of names in the book, so I would not recommend reading this in small spurts.  You really have to sit down and digest the content and follow along carefully.  This is not really an issue with the book itself, it is more just that the whole war and crisis with Syria and ISIS is very complicated and has a wide cast of characters.  I found myself being really into certain parts of the book, while others I glanced over a bit.  Being that the book is about a terrorist organization, there are some gruesome and sad moments of, so be forewarned.  Black Flags was though provoking and because of that, I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in current events or politics. Further, I think anyone on the political spectrum would enjoy reading Black Flags.  The Iraq War can be very polarizing and I feel that the book didn’t really take political sides, which I think is important given that this was meant to be a factual account of the actions (around the globe) that lead to the formation and spread of ISIS.