Review: Helter Skelter – The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

“You can convince anybody of anything if you just push it at them all of the time. They may not believe it 100 percent, but they will still draw opinions from it, especially if they have no other information to draw their opinions from.”

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★★★★

W.W. Norton & Company | 1974

Opening Brainwashing: The lowest of low hanging fruit.

Main Cult Leader: The folk singer with the swastika seems on the up-and-up

True Crimey-ness: Pop culture murder


Everyone and their mother knows the story of Charles Manson. Or at least the bullet points, because the bullet points are fucking insane. Crazy “hippie” cult leader who brainwashed otherwise normal young people into brutally murdering pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her house guests in the Hollywood Hills in 1969.

Everyone knows the blurb. Everyone knows the images of Manson and his craziest moments. Everyone has seen, at some point, that image of three happy girls singing on their way to their murder trial with swastikas on their foreheads. Everyone knows that Sharon Tate was pregnant because it’s those kinds of headline specifics that make your stomach turn or your jaw drop.

The famous imagines and soundbites are so robust and insane and sensational, and seared into pop culture by our own doing, that it led me to believe that I knew basically everything there was to know about this case. Or that I had enough of an understanding that reading this book was going to be just to say that I’d read it. It’s kind of a must for true crime fans, in my sometimes abrasive opinion.

But I was wrong.

There is so much information to be gleaned from this book by the prosecutor who convicted Manson, Vincent Bugliosi. Helter Skelter is a broad picture of Manson’s crimes, his early life and his followers that I found it utterly fascinating, even if the narrator of the audiobook sounded like he stepped right out of Fast Talking, High Trousers.

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Review: Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

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★★★★

Penguin | 2004

Overall Grossness: You put that monkey head back where it came from, or so help me!

Best Cadaver: They were all beautiful, in their own dissected ways.

Plot Educational-ness: Thinking about your own expiration date has never been more fun!


I think if you’re into the macabre and that side of life, or death as it were, then this book is probably required reading.

And truth be told, I am not a science-brained kind of girl. Or history. Or geography. Or math. Really anything that requires a level of intelligence that is based on facts and an excessive amount of information and concentration.

These are just not my strong suits. And as much as high school teachers would want to make me feel bad about that with those shitty grades I kept getting, I’ve accepted myself now as an adult. I fully embrace that I will never be able to help my stepkid with science or math homework. He could ask me about English and art though. And I do appreciate logic and thoughtfulness.

I do have some intelligence, y’all!

Continue reading “Review: Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach”

Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

“…we often mistake love for fireworks – for drama and dysfunction. But real love is very quiet, very still. It’s boring, if seen from the perspective of high drama. Love is deep and calm – and constant.”

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★★★★

Celadon Books | 2019

Opening Hook: You know how you want to kill your spouse sometimes?

Main Character: Creases his jeans, eats oatmeal, probably.

Plot Twisty-ness: A clever bitch


There was a lot of hype surrounding this book’s release, and for the most part, it was deserved. I mean, it didn’t totally blow my socks off and it wasn’t necessarily reinventing the wheel when it comes to thrillers with unreliable narrators. But, for a debut novel, it’s pretty impressive and I had a fun time reading it, so one eggplant up for Mr. Michaelides.

Alicia, an artist, killed her photographer husband. Shot him in the head repeatedly while he was tied to a chair, as a matter of fact. And she’s been silent every day since. Locked up in a psych hospital, she hasn’t uttered a word in nearly 7 years.

Theo Faber is a psychotherapist who believes he can crack Alicia’s silent nut. He takes a job in the hospital where she is locked up and starts his mostly one-sided conversations in the hopes of getting Alicia to finally explain why she did what she did to her husband, who by all accounts, she was madly in love with.

And I don’t know about all of you, but while I jokingly say I’d like to murder the shit out of my husband sometimes, I don’t really mean it. Well, mostly I don’t mean it. But I swear to jeebus, when he clips his toenails in bed I could really, truly smother him with a pillow.

Anyway!

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Review: Blood for Blood (Ziba MacKenzie, #1) by Victoria Selman

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★★★

Thomas & Mercer | 2019

Opening Hook: It’s a blasty-blast

Main Character: If Sherlock Holmes lacked a personality

Plot Twisty-ness: Technically good, missing the feeling.


*shakes fist at sky* I just want to read a legitimately strong female character! Just one!

Okay, so I liked this and it’s also a disappointment in some big ways so… *fart noises*

Here goes my ranty review. I’ll try to highlight the positive stuff, but we all know that’s not my strong suit.

I could give some line about my expectations being too high when it comes to female-led crime fiction, or it’s not the book, it’s me. But I won’t because I refuse to apologize for wanting to find a female character who isn’t desperately crippled by a man in some way which then doesn’t allow for robust characterization to occur within the pages outside of what revolves around that man. It’s fucking annoying me at this point.

Ziba MacKenzie is former special forces and an expert criminal profiler. SPECIAL FUCKING FORCES. She has a huge brain stuffed with lots of knowledge that is both practical and theoretical. Like, she can recite facts about serial killers but can also save lives in dire situations.

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Review: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Three, and they label you a serial killer.

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★★½

Doubleday Books | 2018

Opening Hook: Rub-a-dub-dub, cleaning blood out of a tub

Main Character: Don’t miss The Amazing Doormat! Watch as she makes terrible decisions!

Plot Twisty-ness: It’s all given away in the title.


I don’t really know how to rate this book totally, so I’m giving half of five stars because that seems the most fair. I mean, honestly, the cover deserves one of those stars just on its own. Talk about fucking gorgeous! I don’t even need words to read after that, honestly.

But when it comes to the words, this wasn’t really what I thought it would be, or what I wanted it to be. It wasn’t bad, it just seemed like the hammer missed the head of the nail. It felt outside of my usual book choices when it comes to fiction even though it really should have been right up my alley.

The gist is: Korede is a nurse who also has a passion for cleaning, or rather a talent for it. She’s also an older sister. She finds herself constantly cleaning up her younger sister Ayoola’s, messes, as older sisters tend to do. But these particular messes come in the form of men that Ayoola has had to kill in the name of self-defence. Each time Korede helps her little sister get rid of a body and finds herself cleaning up blood, her rational brain gets a little bit louder: maybe Ayoola just likes to kill. Maybe she’s a serial killer. Maybe she’s taking advantage of Korede.

When Ayoola starts dating a doctor with whom Korede is secretly in love with, she starts to worry he might be Ayoola’s next victim. A war inside Korede starts to brew between doing what is objectively right and doing what is right as a sister.

“You’re a big sister now, Korede. And big sisters look after little sisters.”

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Review: No Exit by Taylor Adams

“The difference between a hero and a victim? Timing.” 

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★★★★★

William Morrow | January 2019

Opening Hook: Did we learn nothing about isolated rest stops from Halloween?!

Main Character: Lady McGuyver

Plot Twisty-ness: Hold-onto-your-bits thrills with a side of snow.


This is my first 5-star read of the year. And thank Thor, because I was starting to get a little cranky since nothing has really been knocking my socks off. Who’s fault is that really? Mine? Because of my choices? Get out of here! I don’t want to here it!

Lalalala…

Reading No Exit was an exercise in cinematic writing. It would be easy to say it was written with a movie option in mind (and maybe it was,) but my gut tells me that what actually happened here is that the plotting and timing of the story are so good, that it comes across in vibrant cinematic scenes in the reader’s mind. And therefore, seems like it should be a movie. And it definitely should.

I would honestly give this five stars just based on the writing skill alone, it was that seamless and riveting. And my friends here know I don’t give out my stars easily. You have to earn this shit from me. You want easy stars? Go to the reviewers who aren’t dead inside with a stick up their ass.

It’s all ass sticks here, baby!

I do it because I love you and I want you to have an honest opinion that isn’t worried about feelings and blah blah blah.

andre braugher brooklyn 99 GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine
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Review: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

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★★★½

Viking | 2018

Opening Hook: Full “once upon a time” style.

Main Character: A young stepmother who my step kids should be nicer to!

Plot Twisty-ness: As slow as watching kids warm up to dad’s new wife.


Just like other reviews aplenty will tell you, this novel is inspired by another classic novel and blah blah blah. I don’t know the book. I might know the author’s name? I’ve never read it and I didn’t know any of this “inspiration” shit going into the book so it really makes zero difference to me whatsoever.

Look, I never claimed to be a refined reader.

I read this novel purely for the gothic feel of the synopsis and because I’m a stepmother married to an older(ish) man and those themes resonate with me. I haven’t found many stories centring on stepmothers/second wives, which are actually mystery/thrillers that don’t paint people like me as some ridiculous evil creature to be feared and ousted.

I wagered, because this book was told from the stepmother’s point of view, there was a good chance she wasn’t the villain per se. And thankfully, I was right! The stepmother isn’t the villain for once! She’s more of a saviour, which is totally how I see myself, just with less like doing things that make anyone’s life better and more being peeved that I never get to play my PlayStation anymore that I bought a second one out of passive aggressive spite. It’s how I roll.

unbreakable kimmy schmidt xanthippe voorhees GIF
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Review: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

“You can’t judge someone’s internal state by their external attributes.” 

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★★★★

January 2019 | St. Martin’s Press

Opening Hook: Make-up artist seeks quick cash by being a liar

Main Character: Let’s her assumptions make her seem crazy

Plot Twisty-ness: Subtle and ominous


I’m a total sucker for anything that is psychologically leaning. And I don’t mean the trend of “psychological thrillers.” I mean real psychology, human nature, predicting behaviour and analyzing it. I’m a straight-up glutton when it comes to that kind of stuff and not for any sinister reason. It’s like not I’m trying to figure out the best way to appear human or some shit. If I was smarter, I probably would have been a psychologist. In another part of the multi-verse perhaps I am.

But in the here and now that we find ourselves trapped in (there’s been some kind of tear in the fabric of our universe and we ended up in a strange hell where Trump and Putin are going to destroy all life on Earth, I’m sure of it,) I’m just a girl with a deep fascination for dark psychology and no way to really express that except to watch endless true crime documentaries and read books like An Anonymous Girl, and have people think I’m weird.

Image result for leslie knope not embarrassed
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Review: The Last Night Out by Catherine O’Connell

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★★½

Severn House Publishers | 2018

Opening Hook: The horror of a one night stand.

Main Character: Crying in the shallow end of the pool.

Plot Twisty-ness: Twists are wrapped in unnecessary information, inside of personal drama and cemented in my disappointment.


*deep, heavy sigh* Goddamnit, you guys. I really wanted to like this. I have been intrigued by this one for a while. I received a copy from NetGalley and then the author sent me a signed copy. Ms. O’Connell said she liked my honest, to the point reviews and then dared me that I wouldn’t be able to figure out the twist in this one. I said, “challenge accepted.”

So, I hate to write a negative review, but I’m going to anyway because Ms. O’Connell was probably at least half prepared for it. I will say this though, I didn’t figure out the twist until just before it started to unfold.

One point from Hufflepuff.

In my defence, the reason why I didn’t figure it out is because the narrative is such a jumbled up mess, and is taken in the wrong direction at every opportunity, that there was literally no way for most readers to find the clues and the red herrings… if there even were any.

i said what i said real housewives of atlanta GIF by Bravo TV
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Review: The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson, #9) by Darynda Jones

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★★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2016

Opening Hook: Amnesia is a bitch

Main Character: Classic Charley, but Jane Doe

Plot Twisty-ness: Signature Charley adventures


I took a break from this series in order to catch up on some books that I owed reviews on, but since I was given the final book in the series through Netgalley, I’m back on the Charley Davidson bike, as it were. And I’m going to ride this son-of-a-bitch right to the finish line.

The ending of #8 was a little bit of a cliffhanger, but more than that it was just a bummer. Actually, the whole book was a bit of a bummer for me. I didn’t like how different it felt to everything else the series had been up to that point. It was a little heavier, a little too lovesick-romantic – just a little much all around, with not enough levity. It was like the series lost its way a little bit.

I’m happy to report, however, that #9 is a clear swing back around to Classic Charley. Only this time she has no idea who she is. She’s living a “just the essentials” kind of life as a waitress named Janey. She’s trying to figure out who she is, where her people are – she must have people, she has a wedding ring on after all! But she’s also just living her life without too much pressure.

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