Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

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★★★

William Morrow | 2019

Opening Hook: No one cares about your sports trophies in real life.

Main Character: Catching a killer has never been so boring

Plot Twisty-ness: Over-the-top, yet done to death


The first book I ever read by Peter Swanson was The Kind Worth Killing and it totally impressed me enough to grab a four-star rating from my crabby, judgmental ass. Despite the characters being dull as hell, the plot was completely engrossing and the twists, duelling narrations and dark Strangers on a Train-like premise kicked me right in the crotch.

Since then, I’ve picked up Swanson’s work a few more times with optimistic expectations and have struggled with each reading. Fuck me for being positive, I guess. Before She Knew Him is no exception to that struggle. It’s better than All the Beautiful Lies (which was a goddamn snoozer,) but it’s still not touching me the way my first time with Swanson did…that’s what she said.

This, like a lot of Swanson’s work, seems to borrow heavy inspiration from Hitchcock, but just isn’t doing it as well as the original or adding anything new to the template. Before She Knew Him has serious Rear Window vibes when Hen and her douchebag husband, Lloyd, move to a small town outside of Boston so that Hen can find some peace and quiet while attempting to get the symptoms of her bipolar disorder under control. She’s an artist who works from home, and wouldn’t you just know it, she eventually suspects her neighbour, Matt, is a serial killer. BUT NO ONE BELIEVES HER dun dun dunnnnn…

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Also, a serial killer named Matt? BRO.

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Review: Lost Girls – An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

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★★★

HarperCollins | 2013

Opening Mystery: Seriously, WTF happened to Shannan Gilbert?

Main Creep: Peter Hackett has some attention issues

Plot Truthy-ness: A humanizing portrait


I’m pretty fascinated by the Long Island Serial killer case. It’s been some time since we had an evil, undetectable serial killer case to watch in real-time. Though it’s faded from news and been replaced by, well, mostly Trump for fuck’s sake… this is certainly a story to keep a light on. There are dozens of women whose lives have been cut short with zero progress towards justice of any kind.

The more cynical side of me might say that because they were escorts and sex workers that their cases are deemed “less important” to solve compared to other things cops are coming across every day involving people with more “societal value.” That’s the more cynical side.

I’ve seen a couple documentaries on this decades-old unsolved mystery, watched a few interviews and have a general idea of who is suspicious AF (I’m looking at you Dr. Hackett, you shady motherfucker,) so, I wanted to read this novel by an award-winning investigative reporter because I thought I would be getting a really in-depth overview of the case as it stood in 2013, and some theories about what the actual fuck is going on.

Continue reading “Review: Lost Girls – An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker”

Review: I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

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★★½

Flatiron Books | 2019

Opening Hook: Phone, keys, wallet

Main Character: JUST ANSWER THE FUCKING QUESTIONS!

Plot Twisty-ness: 👉👌


What in the actual fuck?

Why did you do this to me, Feeney?!

Sometimes I Lie was one of my more favourite reads last year, so I was pretty pumped up to read the second offering from this author, but unfortunately, I’m W-T-F-ing all over the place with this one.

I mean, seriously. Why? Why that ending?

I should have fucking known I was going to be disappointed by this.

Clue number one: some of the most reliable thriller reviewers around these parts (Dennis from Scared Straight Reads, I’m looking at you,) gave this book one fucking star.

Clue number two: My buddy Lori (@mylifewithbooksandbeans on Insta if you’re looking for a gem bookstagrammer to follow,) asked for my address and paid the costs to send me her ARC copy from the US, just because she wanted me to write a review.

People don’t want me to write reviews about books they think I’ll love, okay? I might not know where Brazil is on a map, but I know that much.

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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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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.

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

#Throwback Thursday

Happy Long Weekend, everybody who is getting a long weekend like meeeeeee!!!

You’ll have to excuse me if this post barely makes as much sense as I want it to. We had a potluck at work for two women who are retiring and I think I’m going to pass out. I ate so much.

So much.

My blood is, as we speak, congealing into a cheese-like substance and my nipples are meatballs.

Jesus. No, they’re not.

I’m sorry. That barely reached the bar of what I think is good enough to post on this blog, but I’m nearing food-coma levels so meatball nipples are what you get. Welcome to how I blog!!!

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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!

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, tricky 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 tits 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 erection 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 is overly confident in his belief that he can crack Alicia’s silent nut, as it were. 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.

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 Thor, when he clips his toenails in bed I could really, truly smother him with a pillow.

Anyway!

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Booknerd Wednesday: Holiday-Themed Reads!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, booknerds!

And I mean that in the most inclusive way possible. There are 11 holidays celebrated this time of year by people of all different backgrounds. And that’s just what I know of. It is completely possible that there are more celebrations that I’m ignorant to. 

It doesn’t matter what you celebrate this time of year, I want your holidays to be everything that you want them to be. I want you to wish people whatever lovely greeting you choose to and I want you to be happy and loved.

For me and my little family, we are celebrating Yule/Saturnalia. And I need my Yule to include some goddamn murder! 

That’s right, I said it. With the stress of shopping and wrapping and getting the house in order for family and friends, I like to wind down at the end of the day with some dead bodies and a big mystery to unravel. 

Nothing says “Christmas” like blood in the snow. 

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So if you’re anything like me, maybe you’re looking to build your TBR in December around some winter holiday themed crime fiction. And because I love you all so much, I’ve put together a list of what I think are your best bets to add to your pile. 

Here’s my fucking list of the top holiday-theme books to quench your thirst for death this season! 


Continue reading “Booknerd Wednesday: Holiday-Themed Reads!”