Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

“Fear…is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.”

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★★

Viking | 1959

Opening Spooky: THERE ARE TOO MANY DOORS

Main Character: Was crazy before she got there.

Plot Scary-ness: Underwhelming boos


The first time I ever came across this story was in 1999 when I was 14 years old and watched The Haunting for the first time.

Is it a good movie? Not really, but Catherine Zeta-Jones and Liam Neeson in a murderous, haunted house? That’s always going to be a yes from me. And that scene where Owen Wilson gets his head lobbed off? Scared the shit out of me twenty years… TWENTY YEARS AGO?! Omg. *vomits in mouth*

So, there’s some nostalgia linked to this for me in terms of shitty 90s horror movies that I still have a fondness for.

I later saw the original 1963 adaptation which just didn’t really work for me because I was just a dumbass teenager with a myopic view of entertainment and a shitty attitude.

In 2001, Scary Movie 2 pulled heavily from The Haunting and it has been seared into my brain ever since.

In fact, while I was reading this I suddenly had a desire to watch Scary Movie 2, so I did, and that was arguably a bad idea because for the rest of the book all I could picture was Chris Elliot with his gross tiny fucking hand.

david cross chris elliot GIF by IFC

Say what you want about quality, but the moronic movie is funny as hell.

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Review: The Fact of a Body – A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

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★★

Flatiron Books | 2017


I really wanted to like this. I didn’t want to write a negative review for a book that is, in part, detailing the author’s personal experience with molestation.

The heavy subject matter makes a negative review seem tacky, to a degree. And I didn’t want to be that asshole. But, that’s not where this review is coming from. At all.

I applaud the author’s use of writing to work through her trauma and to find an understanding of how trauma shaped her. If this book was a tool for personal peace (which I suspect it was,) then really, any negative review means nothing in the grand scheme of that healing.

But, I am a reader and book reviewer and so I’ll be honest about my reading experience, as I always am, beyond the personal aspects Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich bravely shares.

The Fact of a Body weaves two true life events. One: the re-trial of Ricky Langley, a confessed pedophile who was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of his 6-year-old neighbour, Jeremy Guillory. In 2003, he was awarded a new trial. The intention of his attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, was to reduce Langley’s death sentence down to life in prison. Clive the Lawyer runs a law firm which specializes in Death Row cases and he is staunchly anti-capital punishment, taking on many cases where the intention is only ever to reduce the sentence, not to prove innocence.

The author begins an internship at Smith’s law firm at the same time the re-trial is starting. During her orientation, Alexandria is shown Langley’s ’92 confession where he talks about his sexual attraction to children and what he did to Jeremy Guillory.

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Review: The Homecoming by Andrew Pyper

“When mom called to tell me the news, I was surprised at first that Raymond Quinlan was capable of something so human as dying.”

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★★★★

Simon & Schuster | 2019

Opening Hook: Daddy had secrets.

Main Character: A normal guy wearing a good guy suit.

Plot Twisty-ness: Lost in the woods without a sense of direction.


I’m a huge fan of Blake Crouch. And this book by Andrew Pyper is giving me some serious Crouch vibes and I’m not mad about it. This is the first book I’ve read by Pyper but it probably won’t be my last. The Homecoming was pretty much the shit if you’re into dark thrillers with a horror-sci-fi undertone.

The Quinlan family has lost their patriarch, the mysterious and absent Raymond Quinlan. He was a workaholic who left his children – Aaron, Franny and the youngest, Bridge – with some daddy issues. But all his work and bad parenting also left behind a few million in assets, so how bad can an absent father really be in that case?

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Belfountain is a huge estate in the PNW that includes cabins, a lodge and an old Christian summer camp on the grounds. It’s worth a cool thirty million in the right market conditions and it technically now belongs to the remaining Quinlans, But, in order for them to get their hands on their cut of their father’s will, they have to agree to spend 30 days on the estate, with no contact to the outside world.

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Review: The Missing Ones (Detective Lottie Parker, #1) by Patricia Gibney

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★★★½

Opening Hook: Church will kill you.

Main Character: Drunky McHypocrite

Plot Twisty-ness: You never know what Priests are up to.


My endless struggle to catch up on NetGalley arcs continues with this book I received in January of 2017.

Seriously I’m just the fucking worst. Please don’t leave me!

The Missing Ones wasn’t the worst. But it wasn’t great either…

First of all, it’s way too long considering the substance of the story which is pretty typical and occasionally flat, albeit mixed with moments that were kind of disturbing. Consider this your warning for baby murder.

Detective Lottie Parker is heading up a team looking for a killer who has killed a woman in a church and tried to make another man’s death look like a suicide. The deaths are all connected in some way to a former Catholic children’s home, St. Angela’s, that is disturbing as fuck as one would expect a religious children’s home to be. There’s a land developer involved, some business partners and a few shady priests.

I mean, in a nutshell, you could say the theme of this book is: Catholics really know how to fuck people up.

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Save Me From Dangerous Men (Nikki Griffin, #1) by S.A. Lelchuk

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★★★½

Flatiron Books | 2019

Opening Hook: Pool cues and brass knuckles

Main Character: Guilt-plaguing with tight jeans and a purpose

Plot Twisty-ness: A little off the Silicon Valley rails, and I don’t mean cocaine.


I was committed and ready, and completely open, to falling head over heels in love with Nikki Griffin, bookseller and badass P.I. with some serious anger issues.

But, unfortunately, this didn’t totally live up to everything I wanted it to be. Call it a victim of my high expectations if you want, but I found this to be a just okay, middle-of-the-road thriller.

The star highlight for me is the main character of Nikki Griffin. I think she was complicated but real. She came with a dark backstory and a closed-off, tough-as-nails personality that didn’t slip away the moment she met a guy. For being a novel written by a man, I was pleased to find she didn’t talk about how her nipples felt or looked at any moment, since that seems to be a thing male writers are typically preoccupied with when writing female leads. Any comments that she makes about her body seemed to me to be in relation to men looking at her and their sexual thoughts, and were less about sexually describing herself.

The way Nikki is introduced is pretty canon the whole way through the novel. She likes privacy, but she’s not dead inside. She keeps things close to the chest, but isn’t afraid to be vulnerable with the people she trusts. She’s strong, smart and professionally violent. All things I probably am, but just way less cool about it. Like, I daydream about breaking a man’s arm for hitting a woman, but really I just eat cookies about it.

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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!

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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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