Review: The Great Pretender – The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

“Psychiatry at its best is what all medicine needs more of—humanity, art, listening, and empathy—but at its worst it is driven by fear, judgment, and hubris.”

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★★★★

Grand Central Publishing | 2019

Opening Thesis: Everyone needs drugs

Main Diagnosis: SCHIZOPHRENIA

Plot Researchy-ness: Up to your eyeballs in straight FACTS


Before you go into reading this book, you must first understand the true premise. It is NOT a history of psychiatry and psychiatric hospitals, though those things are discussed to fully understand what Dr. David Rosenhan was doing. But this book is almost totally about Dr. David Rosenhan and his study from the 1970s that looked to expose how psychiatry was functioning away from public knowledge.

I admit I was kind of disappointed once Nellie Bly was discussed for only a couple of paragraphs because that is shit I showed up for. I was expecting a novel that discussed people like Bly more in-depth. I was expecting something a bit more sinister and historical. Like, give me some Geraldo Rivera at Willowbrook kind of drama.

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But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Once I got passed my assumptions, I did get into this nonfiction work, but not as much as I was hoping I would. It’s a pretty dense read, full of medical jargon, medical history (seriously, you go through the creation of all the DSM volumes) and a complete dissection and recounting of Dr. Rosenhan’s study, On Being Sane in Insane Places.

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Review: The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan

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★★★

Spiderline | 2017

Opening Hook: Just hanging around

Main Character: Seeming guilty might be a fetish

Plot Twisty-ness: Too much soda


Okay, so this wasn’t exactly a grab-you-by-the-tits kind of thriller. If that’s what you’re expecting, temper your expectations accordingly. This is slower, but eerie, like a guy walking behind you and he just gives you the creeps but it’snot like he’s done anything but be a man on a sidewalk alone. Depending on your mood, this is either going to hit you as slow and boring or as a slow-burner that is chilling and twisty.

For me, when I read this, it was slowwwwwww like watching a sloth cross the street, which in any other circumstances I would love to do because sloths are my favourite.

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That said, I feel like it’s totally on me being in a bad headspace for a slow-burning thriller considering I’ve been stuck in the fucking house since mid-March. I can’t do slow or boring or any combination therein. I need my thrillers to be genuinely thrilling, mysterious and wild if I’m going to forget I’m looking at the same walls every day, all day. HOW MANY MORE WALKS CAN I TAKE MY DOG ON? We’ll find out…

Listen, I’m very grateful for all the people doing the front-line and essential work. But also, I’m getting cabin fever so let me express that, thank you and fuck off.

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Review: Dear Girls – Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong

If you can’t handle me when I show you my gaping butthole, you don’t deserve the rest of me.

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★★★★½

Random House | 2019

Opening Act: Eating mango sliced by a dude named Noah

Main Lesson: The TV is taking care of the baby, okay?

Plot Jokey-ness: Do-do and rat placentas


Disclaimer: I love Ali Wong. Like a deep, spiritual love based on unabashed honesty, IDGAF attitude and vagina jokes.

But you don’t need to love Ali Wong the way I do to read and enjoy this book of raw, personal and unflinching essays that will give you her takes on life and love, and erectile dysfunction.

Speaking from my biased standpoint, you do want to know her opinions. I’m not saying she’s a genius, but at the very least, she’s one the most intelligent, open-minded, well-spoken and experienced women out there, and as a bonus, she uses words like “dodo”, “caca” and “punani.” What’s not to love? She fucking disgusting and I look up to her like a fucking idol.

Maybe you won’t agree with all of her hot takes (I don’t always,) but you will learn and grow and laugh. Definitely laugh.

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Review: Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

“Nothing says “fuck off” like eyeliner as dark and heavy as my soul.”

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★★★★★

Razorbill | 2018

Opening Hook: Crawling out of your own grave

Main Character: REPRESENT

Plot Witchy-ness: Wiccans do it better


FINALLY! It’s been 84 years… Okay, no it’s only been like four or five, but it’s true! I have FINALLY found a YA novel that I genuinely LOVED.

Thank you, Lily Anderson. It’s been a fucking struggle to get here.

This novel is part murder mystery, part witchy supernatural fun, and part teen drama but with none of the cheesy dialogue or after-school special bullshit that is usually the reason I’ve disliked every YA novel I’ve tried to read.

There’s none of that here. This is mature in the writing, appropriate for teens but not annoying to adults. It has relatable plot points for every reader, with a mystery element that takes the spotlight instead of things like “we held hands once, are we dating now?”

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This is a passionate, fun, interesting and original YA story that everyone should be reading. Maybe everyone already has and I’m late to the party, but still, read it!

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Review: Resin by Ane Riel

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★★★

Doubleday | 2018

Opening Hook: Going off-grid

Main Character: Just doing her best

Plot Twisty-ness: Encased in resin


Wellllllll…. excuse the fuck out of me, but I didn’t really love this. It’s meh, but I get what it was going for. I’m definitely an outlier when it comes to my rating, so take it with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila.

I picked this up – an award-winning international best-seller – because the reviews are all like THIS IS BEST THING EVER! WORK OF ART! Blah, blah, blah… and I guess at this point I should know that my tastes are garbage and anything that is considered “art” is fucking lost on me.

I don’t like the classics.

I don’t like art-house.

I don’t like pompous shit that no one can get unless you’re some kind of eccentric intellectual.

I don’t like things that are extra for the sake of sounding smarter than the person reading it.

And I didn’t like this.

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Review: Over the Top – A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness

“You know those plants that are always trying to find the light? Maybe they were planted in a location that didn’t necessarily facilitate growth, but inexplicably they make a circuitous route to not only survive but bloom into a beautiful plant. That was me—my whole life.”

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★★★★★

HarperOne | 2019

Opening Queen: Raw and unapologetic

Main Yasss Honey!: A radiant human

Fabulous Truthy-ness: Fiercedom and realness.


Let’s take a break from doom, gloom, death and viruses to cloak ourselves in the bright and shining warmth that is Jonathan Van Ness. This isn’t what I usually read, but this felt like the perfect time for it. Also, I love Queer Eye, because duh.

His memoir, Over the Top, is an optimistic telling of a life that has been full of struggles, wrong turns, bad decisions and amazing turnarounds.

If you don’t watch Queer Eye (WHY THO?!), maybe you have no interest in Van Ness or his journey from a small, bigoted little town to Netflix, where he’s become, in my opinion, a beacon of joy, self-acceptance, love and honesty. I mean, really, he just makes the world a better place, and that’s a fact.

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But, if you do watch Queer Eye (because you have TASTE) then you definitely want to read this autobiography. It will bring you so much more understanding and appreciation for the man behind the hair and personality.

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Review: Of Vengeance by J.D. Kurtness

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★★½

Dundurn | 2019

Opening Hook: Self-awareness via murder.

Main Character: An anti-hero minus the hero.

Plot Twisty-ness: A straight-forward diatribe.


*shakes fist* THIS COULD HAVE BEEN SO GOOD! I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed in this story.

Of Vengeance starts with an unnamed female narrator telling the reader she sees a cold-blooded killer every day when she looks in a mirror.

Oh really?! Do go on….

She recounts her life, starting at the age of 12 when she discovers that she really likes murdering terrible people after accidentally killing the worst bully at her school. It’s like a revenge fever dream that you might have popped into your head for the briefest of moments when you think back to that time Andrew put a basketball under his shirt in Grade 7 and said: “Look, I’m Krystin!” because you were a chubby 12-year-old.

But what do I know?

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Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

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★½

Jimmy Patterson | 2018

Opening Hook: Never invite mountain men to a family gathering

Main Character: Hormones and BEST FRIENDS FOREVER

Plot Twisty-ness: Let the bodies hit the floor…because you won’t care.


Okay, okay. I know what you’re going to say. But WAIT. I know this book is a James Patterson publication. And I know the forward is written by him. With that information in mind, you may be tempted to say that I’ve already broken my New Years’ resolution to not read any Patterson, but I disagree!

I’m calling this Patterson adjacent. It’s close, but it’s not on the target.

Also, I had no idea he had anything to do with this book until it was too late, soooo…

I’m leaving this up to the judges to decide.

JUDGES?

Judges’ ruling finds…it’s not a violation! It is NOT a violation! The crowd goes wild…

Oh, the judges are me? Go figure.

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Now that we’ve taken care of that, onto my review for this raging dumpster campfire.

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Review: The Killer Across the Table – Unlocking the Secrets of Serial Killers and Predators with the FBI’s Original Mindhunter by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker

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★★★★½

Dey Street Books | 2019

Opening Killer: Mild-mannered, sunny disposition

Main Psycho: Hiding in plain sight

Plot Mindhunter-ness: Hunting all the minds!


Hands down, if you are a true crime nerd you want to read this book. It is a heavy fucking tome of information on the dark and depraved. It is written by the Godfather of criminal profiling and it focuses on cases that you’ve likely never heard of before unless you happen to be local to where the crimes happened.

We are not talking about circling the drain on Bundy and Manson. This is likely going to be brand new information that will have you cringing with every uncomfortable nerve exposed while teaching you how the minds of the four twisted subjects worked, how Douglas dissected them during one-on-one interviews, and how the killer’s traits represent the broader strokes of understanding criminal minds.

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Be forewarned however, if you have issues with crimes against children, a significant portion of this book really explores that, unflinchingly.

Continue reading “Review: The Killer Across the Table – Unlocking the Secrets of Serial Killers and Predators with the FBI’s Original Mindhunter by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker”

Review: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

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★★★★★

Quirk Books | 2016

Opening Hook: Don’t take acid in the woods.

Main Character: The power of Christ compels her.

Plot Twisty-ness: E.T. attending an exorcism.


I 👏 FUCKING 👏 LOVED 👏 THIS.

I own Horrorstör by this author, but I haven’t read it yet. I only bought it for the cover, and format, without any idea of what the book was about or if I liked the author. And honestly, I wanted to read My Best Friend’s Exorcism for the same reason. This is 100% a “#bookstagram made me do it” read. The alternate cover is gorgeous VHS 80s goodness. And the yearbook format print that I had was goddamn adorable. I literally read every single message written on the front and back covers with unabashed nerdy glee.

Clearly, Grady Hendrix is killing the book format game and there’s nothing that turns me on more than someone who throws cliches out the window and walks a creative path less followed in writing. It’s like half the reason I married my husband, who wrote me bizarre poetry on the reg.

But, it turns out Hendrix is also killing the horror writing game because this is one of my most favourite books that I’ve read in a while. And I’m so bummed it wasn’t in my life so much sooner.

I STAN GRADY HENDRIX SO FUCKING HARD.

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