Review: Evil – The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side by Julia Shaw

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★★

Abrams Press | 2019

Opening Thesis: Evil is just a misunderstanding.

Main Evil: Apparently pedophiles aren’t that bad?

Thesis Conclusion: Shockingly shallow.


I really wanted to like and I’m having a hard time with the rating, because I didn’t like this, and frankly parts of it are so off-putting I want to toss it out a window.

But it’s not a bad book either in terms of writing quality.

My biggest problem really comes down to the fact that this book is not about the science behind humanity’s dark side, as the cover suggests.

I wanted to learn about the brain, human chemistry, nature vs nurture; I wanted case studies and scientific journals and theories and experiments. What I got was the author explaining why evil is subjective and nothing is really bad because all humans fuck up. The overall theme boils down to “rethinking evil.”

While that may be a provocative topic to tackle, I wouldn’t have necessarily started the book with the argument that we should reconsider labelling Hitler as evil.

There is actually very little science-back study and explanation in this book. She invokes the Milgram Experiment to discuss the banality of evil, and then uses the Stanford Prison Experiment to explore group-think, but never mentions that many issues with that study that led to it being discredited. Shaw doesn’t do a very good job at tying the referenced studies to the points she’s trying to make; they are loosely thrown together and barely make a correlation.

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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: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

This is how it ends for you. “You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.

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★★★★½

Harper | 2018

Crimes: 12+ murders, 50+ rapes, 120+ burglaries

Crime Fighter: A true crime junkie who should be alive to witness the conclusion of her life’s work

Plot Truthiness: Everything you could want to know without being a cop on the case


This is a beautiful work of non-fiction/true crime.

The East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, the Visalia Ransacker, the Easy Bay Rapist, the Dollner Street Prowler, the Diamond Knot Killer…

This killer has gone by many names, but the one you’ll be hearing the most is the Golden State Killer. A term coined by the late Michelle McNamara, a true crime writer/junkie/amateur detective, whose life mission was to see this most prolific villain unmasked after a reign of terror that lasted more than a decade, and that he has been (was) getting away with for over 40 years.

Michelle McNamara died on April 21, 2016. She was nearly done her tome about GSK. Her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, as well as Michelle’s research partner and a journalist friend, finished the book for her. They knew Michelle needed to see this published. It was her life’s work, her greatest obsession.

There are parts of the book with editor’s notes and annotations to let the reader know Michelle hadn’t finished a thing, or that Michelle had written a note to follow up on a thing, but it was never completed by her. These were constant little reminders of this woman’s tragic passing that made this a much more emotional reading experience for me than I usually have when going through a true crime novel.

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Review: Orange is the New Black – My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

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★★

Spiegel & Grau | 2010

I, like most people with a Netflix account and a pulse, love the Orange in the New Black tv series. And it just so happens that the new season premieres this week!

I picked this book up for that reason alone – I was curious about the real story after binging the current season in 13 hours.

Consider me a fan of the TV show, only.

Where the show excels is in the treatment of each and every woman – their individual lives are honoured, never discounted, or treated as the token bit player to Piper’s privileged white girl. They are real and honest and palpable. All walks of life given equal value, time and courtesy.

But this book was…not that.

It came across as such: I’m just a white girl who made one mistake. What an oopsie-doopsie to get involved with drug dealers trafficking for an international drug ring. I didn’t mean to traffic drugs to other countries. Can’t you ever forgive me? Can’t you see how hard I tried to get my life back on track and stop being a lesbian? I met a nice boy, I got a good job and now I’m a productive citizen. Doesn’t that count for anything when the snitches open their big mouths and I end up in prison? No? Ok. I’m ever so scared of being in prison, but I won’t show it. I am a stoic warrior princess. I’ll bite my tongue and do my time surrounded by all these women of colour – some of them even like me even though I’m white. Blonde and white. Just call me ‘Blondie’ *wink*. The Latino girls say I have street smarts. All these ethnic ladies are actually really nice. And they’ve taught me so much about what it means to not be white. Which is totally fine with me, I promise. And I consider so many of them friends, that when I left prison I was kind of sad to leave them all behind to continue doing their years and years of time after my measly 15 months. I felt bad.

The first season of OITNB really hit on this aspect of the novel. Piper Chapman is constantly saying some of the whitest shit you can imagine, and usually being called on it. Or at the very least being focused on in such a way that, we the audience, have an uncomfortable reaction to her behaviour.

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Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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★★½

Random House | 1966

I have an unhealthy obsession totally normal interest in true crime. I love mystery-crime fiction. And I’m not comfortable just resting on my laurels and staying in the now, I want to know the history of the things I love. I want to have a developed appreciation for those that came before me and helped contribute to making these genres as accessible as they are, and as artistic as they’ve become.

I also want to be that girl who reads classic novels and has a nighttime face routine and wakes up early to take her dog for a walk.

But if my reading experience with In Cold Blood has taught me anything it’s that I’m none of those things and classic novels are boring as shit. I got out of bed this morning fifteen minutes before I needed to leave. And I don’t give a fuck.

Okay…maybe that’s a bit dramatic. I give a tiny baby of a fuck. And not all classic novels suck. #NotAllClassicNovels.

Honestly, I’m super disappointed that I didn’t like this. I feel like I should have. It’s almost a rite of passage to read this book if you’re in the murderino scene. It’s so popular and has all those keywords on the cover… “spell-binding”, “masterpiece.”

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? This book is giving me an extensional crisis.

In Cold Blood was written over a period of seven years and published in 1966. It was not the first true crime novel ever written, but it is the first to bring the true crime genre to mainstream culture. Capote created the blueprint. He’s a trailblazer.

And I didn’t like it?! I DIDN’T LIKE IT.

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Booknerd Wednesday: WWW Edition

I know everyone else is saying this too but, I can’t believe it’s May already!

April flew passed me, and I didn’t even get all that much reading done, which totally sucks, but I’ve been up to my eyes in house stuff. I swear time is like a downhill snowball the older you get, and I’m not even old!

My husband and I are still trying to get this foyer mudroom finished. And I’m such an inpatient asshole that I also started painting my upstairs hallway. I’m not good at one step at a time, clearly. Also, also, I’ve spent a lot of money on paintings and lights and carpets and please someone STOP ME BEFORE I DESTROY MY BUDGET!

*deep breath*

Anyway…

I took a vacation day from work on Monday and my sincerest hope is that we get something completely done this weekend so I can go back to reading.

Speaking of reading, it’s WWW time!


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Booknerd Wednesday: “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”, Michelle McNamara & The Golden State Killer

It’s officially that time of year again!

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CLASSIC.

Moving on.

Full disclosure, I have not read Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark….yet. Rest assured I am on the very long waiting list for the audiobook.

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Library copies: 1.

PSHHHHHH.

So, while I haven’t read the book, I have been following the story of her life, and those she left behind, since her untimely death at the age of 46. I knew a little bit about her because of my true crime interests, but I learned the most because of Patton Oswalt. I love him; love his comedy, love his political activism and his opinions. Just love him.

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Review: Brave by Rose McGowan

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★★★★

HarperOne | 2018

It doesn’t feel right “rating” an autobiography, especially one as intense and personal as this one, so consider my stars more of a decoration than a judgement.

Rose McGowan is an actress that had a significant presence in my formative years. (Favourite movie of all time: Scream. One of my favourite TV shows of all time: Charmed.) So, going into reading this, after the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, I felt a little bit of a connection to her. In some ways, I grew up with her. Perhaps that affects my opinion of this book, as opposed to someone that saw Death Proof once or remembers her from that time she walked the red carpet at the MTV VMAs essentially naked.

I know this is not the typical book review you might expect to find on a blog dedicated to mysteries and thrillers, but I believe this is an important one to read. For me personally, as a feminist and as a woman, but also just in general. All people should be reading this book. End of.

Whether you agree with her opinions or not, there is so much in this novel that will make you think, make you reconsider an opinion or give you a new perspective you might not have considered.

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