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Let's Talk About Books

An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading. 

Currently reading

In cold blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
Truman Capote
Fellside
M.R. Carey
Progress: 188/485 pages

The Want-Ad Killer

The Want-Ad Killer (True Crime) - Ann Rule

As far as true crime goes, this is a great one. I really enjoy how in-depth Ann Rule goes into the cases she decides to cover. This was a fascinating and INCREDIBLY frustrating case. At so many points I wanted to throttle someone because the detectives were SO close to solving the case but lacked that one key clue to do so. 

 

In particular, I love how much detail Rule gives about the victims in the cases. When the story is done, I remember them just as much as the killer she covers, which is important. You finish the story knowing who these people were and why it's important they get justice and recognition. 

 

The biggest con I have about this book is I felt too much time was spent on Kathy Miller's death and story. Perhaps it's because that case never got full closure, which I can understand, but I did wonder if this guy had any other victims or if she was the only one. It's a tough call. 

 

Final rating: 4 out of 5. Highly recommend. 

Reading progress update: I've read 250 out of 304 pages.

The Want-Ad Killer (True Crime) - Ann Rule

Okay, technically I'm listening to the audiobook, but still counts. This case is so twisted, I'm loving it. 

Reading progress update: I've read 96 out of 485 pages.

Fellside - M.R. Carey

Fun fact: Pandora makes a lovely reading buddy.

Permanent Reading Buddies

Everyone, say hello to my new reading buddies, Dipper (right) and Pandora (left)! 

 

I adopted them on Wednesday and they've made themselves right at home. Pandora is super cuddly and Dipper can be, though he's a bit more aloof. I love them so much. I think they'll be good reading buddies. 

Reading progress update: I've read 38 out of 485 pages.

Fellside - M.R. Carey

Slowly but surely getting in the habit of reading again.

Evil Under the Sun

Evil Under The Sun - Agatha Christie

I don’t have a ton to say about this one. It’s not my favorite of Christie’s but I enjoyed it all the same. I adore Hercule and aspire to be as fabulous as him one day.

The Ritual - Movie

So if you remember my review, The Ritual was one of my favorite books of 2017. The movie adaptation was released this weekend and all I can say is I highly recommend it. In fact, it's honestly one of the best book adaptations I've ever seen. It's not 100% accurate, but it captures what made the book so wonderful. There are a lot of differences, especially in the third act of the movie, but it's all within the same spirit, if that makes sense. 

 

In fact, my big critique was that the book didn't meld the Blair Witch and Deliverance parts as well as it could have. The movie does, in my opinion. So there's a benefit to that. 

 

Biggest critique is that they're showing Modur, which was always kept very secret in the book. However, I love their interpretation and it doesn't bother me as much as it normally would have. 

 

Here's the trailer for those who are interested: 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsZkHrIFJxQ

So...

I got an amazing new job with the Department of Justice that's finally taking me over the mountains and into Denver. Trying to keep up with reading but there's so much to do it might be a little while before I actually finish a book again. 

Satan's Harvest

Satan's Harvest (Ed & Lorraine Warren Book 6) - Mark Merenda, Michael Lasalandra, Lorraine Warren, Ed Warren

I've been curious about this book since the first Conjuring movie. Satan's Harvest covers the possession of Maurice Theriault, a French-Canadian farmer. His possession is considered one of the most publicized and one of the few exorcisms actually recorded. 

 

Now, just to get this out of the way, I do believe Theriault was possessed due to the footage of the exorcism that I have seen. It's an interesting video and due to the time period I'm skeptical it was faked. Not impossible, just not convinced. That said, if I had to use this book to make that decision, I'd say both Theriault and the Warrens are major frauds. 

 

Despite claims of photographic and video evidence, there were very few photos taken in the book. Most were just of Ed and Lorraine, actually, which I felt contrasted very differently from the other books of theirs that I had read. I hate when paranormal books do that, saying they have evidence but never showing it. I'm reading this book to learn and be convinced. The author is the one making the claims so they better do all they can to convince me. 

 

The Warrens themselves, who I've always considered a decent enough couple, came across very differently in this book, especially Ed. He seemed arrogant, pretentious, and close minded. I was especially chuffed during the chapter on the psychiatrist's interview with Maurice. This is a man who went through incredible abuse throughout his life and I was genuinely interested in what those findings would be. But Ed basically shot down everything the man said if it contradicted the theory of possession. This portrayal of the Warrens is very in line with criticisms skeptics pose about them. If this book were my first exposure to them, I'd be fully convinced they were frauds as well.

 

The book also glossed over some pretty major factors of Maurice's life, namely his criminal charges. During the times where his possession was most blatant, Maurice was accused of arson and sexually assaulting a child. You would think the book might want to explore that a bit more, given that it's awfully convenient that he's possessed and therefore wasn't in control of his actions (/sarcasm). Additionally, his treatment of his first wife sounded rather awful and I didn't appreciate how sympathetic the book portrayed him. You can be possessed and still also just be an asshole. 

 

Like I said, I do believe something paranormal was happening with Maurice. I also think he is fully responsible for at least the sexual assault and probably the fires. The Warrens say so themselves, usually someone has to either invite the spirit in or be doing something incredibly amoral to open themselves to demonic possession. At the very least it's a Chicken or the Egg kind of question about his possession and I really wish the book had explored it more. 

 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. A lot of fun spooky stuff to read but oddly narrow minded compared to the other books I've read by the Warrens. 

The Hot One

The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder - Carolyn Murnick

First book of 2018! Woo! And what an interesting read it is. The Hot One is Carolyn Murnick's exploration of her own life and maturation framed by the murder of her childhood best friend, Ashely. We follow Murnick from childhood to early adulthood to navigating the legal system as a spectator of the trial. Throughout her journey she tries to answer the question of why her life turned out so differently from her friends. 

 

Overall I enjoyed this book. Murnick is really a spectacular writer, the kind where you have to go back and reread the lines because it's just so incredible. And the flow of one memory to another worked really well. From a purely technical perspective, this is an incredible book. 

 

The Hot One also presents a perspective I don't think we see a lot of in the true crime genre. Usually these stories are told by a completely separate third party or by someone who knew the killer. As far as I know, there are only a handful of true crime books that are from the perspective of the friends and family of the victims. I appreciated that perspective, particularly during the sections of the preliminary hearing. You don't think about how little details, like the wording of the defense attorney's questions or a photo presented by the prosecution, affect those sitting in the gallery. I really appreciate Murnick for being so vulnerable about her thoughts and reactions to these details in order to present this side. 

 

The biggest critique I have of this book is it really is more about Murnick than it is Ashley or the crime. I suppose that's more of a marketing problem and a personal issue, but I was expecting to learn more about a crime through the eyes of the victim's childhood friend, rather than learn about the friend through the crime, if that makes sense. And honestly, for the first third or half of the book, I didn't really care for Murnick. I found her whiny and pretentious, which only made me want to learn more about Ashely all the more. Overall, I came out of reading the book feeling as if I really didn't learn that much about Ashley, and in that way I feel Murnick failed in her mission - determining how she and her friend ended up on such different paths. I understood how Murnick got to where she was, but for someone who talked so much on the shame that people were judging her friend without really knowing her, she didn't really help us know Ashley much better. So I definitely had an issue with that and wish Murnick had taken more time to focus on what she implied she'd actually be focusing on. 

 

Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. A very fresh perspective for the true crime drama, though you'll have to get through a lot of teenage/young adult angst for the good stuff. 

Annihilation

Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer

Yeah, this was a weird one. Don't even know how to sum it up. But I wanted to read it because I've seen it around the library quite a bit and am very excited for the movie coming out since it looks awesome. Just so y'all now, I think the movie is gonna be really different from the book.

 

I enjoyed this book, though it's definitely a slow burn and not what I expected. It was hard to get into in the beginning and it's definitely a dense book. There were quite a few points where I got lost in the text and not necessarily in a good way. But the more I read, the more into the story I became and in the end, I think I'd read it again if only because it's so deep. 

 

One thing I'll say of the book that I think is important, I wouldn't call it a horror novel. I've seen a few reviewers explain it as a "scifi horror" or "scifi thriller", but really it's just scifi. There are creepy parts in it, to be sure, but that creepy factor isn't present enough for me to consider it a member of the horror genre. The movie might be, but the book is not. 

 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. It's basically a really intense and strange episode of Planet Earth. Imagine Morgan Freeman narrating it. 

Hunting Grounds

The Hunting Grounds (Hidden Sins) - Katee Robert

I actually finished this yesterday but didn't get around to reviewing. And since, ironically, the guy I've been dating gave me the "it's not you it's me" schtick tonight, this won't be a very long review. I shall keep it brief. 

 

I REALLY liked this one. I do think it made a better mystery than romance but the romantic element was still there and fairly well done. The premise and the nature of the killer were fascinating and really quite original. I haven't come across a mystery solved by an FBI agent/Park Ranger duo. And really, I can't stress enough how well executed the mystery was. Compared to File M for Murder, this book was comparable with Agatha Christie. The clues were scattered well, I had to keep guessing who the culprit was, and the pay off was well worth it. 

 

Honestly there are only two cons to this book. The first, and more serious, is the ending was far too abrupt. I liked the general direction it had but it was very much so "And we're done!" I wish she had developed the end just a little bit more.

 

The other con is just the romance factor was a little lacking, as I mentioned. If you're looking for a steamy romance, this isn't the one. There are steamy scenes and all, just not as prominent as I expected from a romance novel. Then again, I don't read the genre a lot so take what I say with a grain of salt. 

 

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5. Very good book, especially as a mystery. I'd read it again.

SPOILER ALERT!

File M for Murder

File M for Murder - Miranda James

Okay, let's get to it!

 

In File M for Murder, Charlie and his beloved cat Diesel are thrilled when Charlie's daughter, Laura, comes home to teach at the college for a semester. The only downside? Genius but asshole play write, Connor Lawton, is also teaching AND he happens to be Laura's ex boyfriend is also teaching at the school. When Connor ends up dead, Charlie works to solve the mystery before Laura becomes the prime suspect. 

 

So, a lot of the things that were good about this one are pretty similar to what I praised in Murder Past Due (which you can read here). We get to see more of Charlie's expertise as a librarian help him sleuth, which was cool. I like the idea of incorporating Connor's work in progress with the mystery itself and the motive behind his murder was definitely original. There was a lot of danger in this one two with higher stakes than I'm used to from cozies. I knew who the murder was almost from the beginning but I wasn't disappointed with the outcome. The way the puzzle pieces fit together at the end was really quite brilliant and I think, as I did with the first book, that James is pretty skilled at crafting mysteries. 

 

Unfortunately, unlike the first book, James did not craft this novel very well. Let's start with the mystery. It took FOREVER for any detective work to actually begin. I think at least one hundred pages. I could be wrong but I thought the MPD got to the mystery much quicker. Not much of FMfM was actually devoted to the mystery and Charlie's investigation but rather drama. If you dissect the book, more time is spent on Laura's relationship problems, Charlie's budding romance, and Charlie and Sean being overprotective than any sleuthing. When the who-done-it was finally revealed, it was crammed into the last ten pages and very anti-climactic. It made sense but it didn't feel earned which led me to feel disappointment. 

 

Another big issue with this book is the characters themselves, specifically the new ones. They all just felt so hollow and underdeveloped. Many of them were very stereotypical, like Connor as the chauvinist writer or Demitra Vane as the vapid LA actress. Vane in particular got on my nerves since, aside from being another suspect, she had almost nothing to do with the story and James never does explain how her earring was left at the scene of the crime or why she was murdered. There are a lot of problems with Vane but I'll talk more about that in a moment. Overall I couldn't really like the newer characters since there wasn't much presented to actually like. It's disappointing, again since I know James can write characters better.

 

Now, as I've mentioned twice already, I noticed a lot of sexism in this book that was rather hypocritical considering how much James decried it in MPD and with his "bad guys" tending to be chauvinists. Laura, for example, really annoyed me as a character since she was (and I know people hate this term) a Mary Sue. There was no fault to her, everyone loved her, and even though she tampered with a crime scene/withheld evidence, nothing actually happened. The way Sean and Charlie fawned over her was obnoxious and when they went to the party the way Charlie described her was just down right creepy. I literally though, dude you're talking about your daughter. She was supposed to be someone we cared about but instead I found myself skimming past her scenes. She just wasn't interesting.

 

Demitra Van was more blatantly awful. I get why she was supposed to be there. A jealous ex makes for AMAZING suspect material. The problem is, she a) wasn't original and b) was really offensive, in my opinion. James copy and pasted the stereotype of the stupid Hollywood bimbo and expected us to buy it. Well I wasn't. She came across as a bimbo from a stereotypical porno but I really don't think there are people like that in real life. Not that people aren't stupid but how stupid he made her was just ridiculous. And it bothers me that he goes for "voluptuous girl is obviously the vapid snob" stereotype. As a rather voluptuous gal myself with a rather voluptuous sister, I'm tired of this stereotype and it's one of the few that really offends me. And as mentioned, the only reason she seemed to be in the story was to provide another suspect and then just die. For someone who looks down upon the way mystery novels treat women, he sure treated Demitra like trash. It's disappointing, it really is. 

 

Final rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. I dunno. Maybe it's because I can't help but compare it to MPD. But overall this one was just disappointing. I'd skip this one if you're interested in the series. 

 

Final note: You might not find the characters in this story particularly offensive. Normally I don't get too chuffed by portrayals of women, at most rolling my eyes. But as I said, he used a stereotype people have applied to me and women I know and it boiled me over. So just keep that in mind. 

File M for Murder - Miranda James

At work so I’ll do a full review when I get home. Here’s the short and simple: 

- hollow, stereotypical characters 

- sexism that made me uncomfortable

- too quick and undeveloped resolution

- Diesel is amazing

 

Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 294 pages.

File M for Murder - Miranda James

I’ll explain more in my final review but I wanted to get it written down before I forget. For a writer who critiques misogyny in mystery novels so much (it came up a lot in Murder Past Due), I’m finding this one to contain quite a few sexist tropes itself. Frustrating.

Reading progress update: I've read 56 out of 294 pages.

File M for Murder - Miranda James

I’m having a lot of feelings about this one, mainly not good. Gonna keep reading for Deisel but so far I’m disappointed in this one.