• Audiobooks,  Bookish,  Lists,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday

    Top Ten Tuesday: the creepy edition

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    Photo by ramy Kabalan on Pexels.com

    Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

    Don’t hate me, I don’t love Halloween.  This week’s list prompt is a freebie list of Halloween/creepy books so I’m going with creepy. Here’s my top 10 in no particular order:

    1.Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – Abraham Lincoln’s young son dies and is laid to rest in a crypt that Lincoln returned to several times (true story). Young Willie Lincoln spends a night in a purgatory of sorts with a cast of characters in various states of flux. Highly creative with lots of historical insights; this book was creepy and extremely entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend the audiobook!

    2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – Think dark fairytales, a reclusive grandmother, and a granddaughter hunting for her mother who went missing; presumably in The Hazel Wood. This book was full of imagination and just dark enough to be creepy at times. The cover art is also a work of art in it’s own right.

    3. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage – What’s not creepy about an adorable first grader plotting to kill her mom so she can have her dad’s attention all to herself. Her schemes are pure psychopathy and gave me the chills more than once.

    4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Screams from the attic, a mysterious fire set in the house, and Jane left to figure out the mystery on her own while being pursued by Mr. Rochester a.k.a. Mr. Nothing to See Here.

    5. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine – Be careful what you wish for. A homely, plain girl inserts herself into the Parrish life she believed she wanted. Except that Mr. Parrish was a monster.

    6. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – What’s not creepy about the daughter of a female serial killer who turned her own mother into the police? The descriptions alone of living in that house are what nightmares are made of. The audiobook was fantastic!

    7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – A young girl is murdered and the book is told from her perspective. Creepy. And terribly sad.

    8. Pet Cemetery by Stephen King – This was my first Stephen King book and I used to read it under my covers with a flashlight. It would scare me so bad that I would go hide it under the couch in the other room so I could sleep.

    9. I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll – Two girls harmlessly flirt with two guys on a train. A year later and one of them is still missing. The plot twists were intriguing and kept you guessing until the end.

    10. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – This was by far Flynn’s creepiest novels. Libby is the sole survivor of a family massacre in her own home. Her brother is convicted but questions still surround the night of the killings. Well written but one I will never read again.

    What are some of your favorite creepy books?

  • Audiobooks,  Book Reviews,  Bookish,  Feminism,  Writing

    The Boston Girl Review : why average books can be great

    img_9440Does every book read have to be a five-star, award-winning, New York Times bestseller?

    When you read a lot and spend a good deal of time conversing with other readers it’s fairly easy to slip into the constant quest for the next great book. Instagram is my primary social media outlet because it’s fairly difficult to be nasty when you are essentially posting pictures with captions and a few thoughts. I digress but when I found “bookstagram” on Instagram I was thrilled.

    Fellow readers! On Instagram! Posting pictures of books! With book reviews!

    I fully admit to being a bookstagrammer and I find the community there to be warm, kind, respectful, and of course, interesting. I have only found one downside and can’t really imagine another one besides this one. What is it?

    Getting on board the latest and greatest book train that never stops. I love new books and enjoy reading what everyone is reading and talking about. I’m always looking out for the next great review while readying myself to grab said book and read it ahead of all the other books in my to-be-read pile.

    But what about the average books? The ones that aren’t what everyone is raving about? For me, I have learned that average books have plenty to offer. I found this true after finishing this audiobook, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the book. The plot, the writing, and the storytelling quality of the book made it a nice change of pace. Especially after back to back books about missing and dead women.

    I logged into Goodreads to mark this book complete and started reading reviews. I was surprised at how tough some of the reviews were. Of course reviews should be honest and every reader is entitled to their opinion but reading comments about being “tired of the immigrant to America success story” plot made me laugh.

    What would be preferred? To read books about immigrants coming to America and failing? We get enough of that narrative in real life. Again I digress but I don’t want every book I read to mirror reality.

    Average books have plenty to draw from and I have found that the average quality gives the reader room to think, reflect, and take from the book what they want or even need.

    The Boston Girl is a coming of age, immigrant success story told by 85-year-old Addie to her granddaughter. She was born in America in 1900 to Jewish immigrants. She had two older sisters and her life began in a one room apartment.

    Addie’s parents were very traditional but 16-year-old Addie wanted more from life than to only marry and have children. She wanted an education and to even have a career. But the early 1900’s were not especially kind to women like Addie or women in general.

    The issues of abortion, sexual assault, suicide, death, child labor, illness, racism, and sexism were all a part of this book. Told solely from Addie’s perspective, it is the story of a young woman navigating her way through some of the very same issues women face today.

    The plot did not expand upon every single issue and while that bothered some reviewers, I liked being able to think about the issues on my own, how they related to the character, and how not so different they are even today.

    Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who isn’t sick of the “immigrant to America success story”. I joke… kind of. This book was a quick read (listen) and a good reminder of despite how bleak things seem today, the world and it’s view of women has improved. Yes, there is more work to do but I found the tenacity, humor, and intelligence of Addie to be endearing and encouraging.

    I listened to the audio version of this book and the narration was wonderful. The narrator sounded like a Boston girl in her 80’s and her words added to the overall effect of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to a feisty grandma tell me about her life and the time she smoked pot on her 80th birthday with her granddaughter.

    Who wouldn’t want to get to know a character like that?

    What is one of your favorite average books?

    (Audiobook)

  • Audiobooks,  Book Reviews,  Bookish,  Feminism,  Writing

    True Crime Addict Part One : A double book review and commentary on sensationalized violence against women

    This post has been rolling around in my mind for weeks. I have a lot of thoughts to share and plan to break this into three parts.

    • Part One – background and review of True Crime Addict.
    • Part Two – review of Dead Girls.
    • Part Three – contrast the two books and discuss the positives and negatives of the genre.

    Background: Several years ago I became a fan of true crime podcasts. It’s a terribly sad subject matter and I dropped most of them for my mental health in favor of politics podcasts. That worked out well.

    My Favorite Murder was the very first one I listened to and still listen to on occasion. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are the podcasters and somehow strike a balance with a very difficult subject matter. They aren’t perfect in their presentation every time but they are far more respectful of the victims than most.

    Then I stumbled on another one, Sword & Scale, that many seemed to enjoy. I made it through exactly 1.5 episodes and realized that something wasn’t sitting right with me. It was so sensational and the podcaster, Mike Boudet, took special pride in graphic details, terrifying 911 calls, and taking a very dramatic and over-produced tone when presenting his research and timeline of events. I moved on after listening to half of an episode with graphic descriptions of harming children. No thanks.

    Other than the obvious, I couldn’t put my finger exactly on why I enjoyed one podcast but not the other. Beyond the graphic sensationalism, there was something more.

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    So after practically having a nervous breakdown over politics, I revisited the true crime genre with this book by James Renner. The title of the book was intriguing and I hoped it would answer some of my reasons for pause about this genre.

    It did not disappoint from the very beginning. Let’s start with the title:

    True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray

    Look at the tagline: “How I Lost Myself…”. Put that with the title:

    True Crime Addict, I, Myself

    All descriptors for the author. The disappearance of Maura Murray is almost an afterthought. There was my first issue with the handling of this genre.

    Was the disappearance of Maura Murray investigated in this book? Yes. And with a large bias against the family because they didn’t want to talk to Renner. With much sarcasm… I can’t imagine why.

    I listened to the audiobook read by the author and hearing it straight from his own mouth was interesting to say the least. Within the first few chapters he revealed that a test he took with his therapist scored him with a personality and characteristics similar to Ted Bundy.

    He didn’t speak of this with fear or reserve but almost a bravado. It was unsettling to say the least to include such personal psychological references in a true crime book about a missing woman.

    He also spoke of falling in love with a missing girl after seeing her “missing” poster when he was a young boy and was formerly obsessed with her case. Missing girls and women consume this author and his life over and over and he spends a fair amount of time writing about such.

    Enter a quick preview of the second book, Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin.

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    Investigating these murders essentially ruins [detectives] Cohle’s and Hart’s  lives. When we see them in 2012, Cohle is gaunt and bedraggled, now a bartender who starts drinking at noon on his day off. Hart is off the force, too, and divorced, drinking again and working as a private eye. How sad these murders had to happen to them. 

    -Dead Girls, Alice Bolin

     

    Interwoven into Renner’s book were the author’s own life experiences, mental health, family issues, trauma, and descent into alcohol abuse. Sound familiar?

    There were also plenty of self-congratulatory passages on his research methods and “transparency”. He created a network of internet sleuths who spent their time chasing theories, some being straight up conspiracy, and freely shared this information on his blog.

    On the surface it seemed to be an interesting methodology. But in the end there were elements of harassment of the victim’s family. For example, Renner gave out the father’s address in the book. There was also harassment of Renner’s family that stemmed from his blog and research.

    The harassment of the Murray family was barely discussed and mostly under the guise of investigative journalism. But the harassment of the author’s family had at least a chapter devoted to it and much was made of the rage he felt and the reminder of his Ted Bundy-esque characteristics.

    Again, it was more about what the investigation of the crime did to him; how the disappearance of Maura Murray had and was happening to him.

    This is a common theme in true crime be it from the investigative journalists, the authors, or even law enforcement. Dead Girls explores this phenomenon and that is where I’ll pick up with Part Two.

    My rating of True Crime Addict: ✂️✂️✂️/5 but not for writing or content. Rather, this book brought to the forefront my issues with the genre and helped me organize my thoughts around the sensationalism of females being harmed.

    Who would I recommend this book to? Not many; even the true crime fans. It’s a disjointed investigation that leads nowhere. And to complicate matters, it’s an odd thing to witness as Renner inserts himself and his own issues into the disappearance of a young woman.

    Multiple young women.

  • Audiobooks,  Book Reviews,  Personal

    Lucky Boy book review

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    “She’d learned the lesson that all women learn sooner or later. If there was something to be done, she’d have to do it herself.”

    “There is a beast in all of us. On the worst things can bring it ripping through the human veneer.”

    Lucky Boy ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    This story tugged all the heartstrings and even tore a few in the process. I finished it at lunch today, ugly cried, and then had to go back to work. 😳

    Soli is 18 when she crosses the border illegally from Mexico. The journey alone was harrowing and she arrived at her cousin’s in California broken and pregnant.

    She’s determined to keep the baby and has a boy who she named Ignacio. His nickname was “Nacho” and was such an endearing reminder of how young Soli was. She finds a good job with a family, is a great mom, and everything is going well until she and her cousin are picked up by the police.

    The parallel story is Kavya and Rishi, a Berkeley couple who are desperate to have a baby. After many failed attempts they decide to foster: enter Ignacio into their lives. They nicknamed him “Iggy” and I liked how the author did this to show the contrast between the two worlds this toddler was living in.

    This was such a timely book and without spoiling the ending, the reader is forced to look at such a difficult situation where no one is right and no one is wrong.

    The audiobook was fantastic and I was amazed at the narrator pulling off both an Indian and Hispanic accent. The writing was excellent; so descriptive and vivid. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about both perspectives of the immigration debate without it being too heavy-handed or political.

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    What did I personally love about this book? The relationship between Kavya and Rishi. Their separate grief and their shared grief. The way they learned to communicate and support each other. Absolutely, I found the message of the book to be so important: awareness for the plight of the undocumented immigrant and their American citizen children. But also, what is a book if you can’t apply parts of it to your own life?

    “Why did people love children that were born to other people? For the same reason they lived in Berkeley, knowing the Big One was coming: because it was a beautiful place to be, and because there was no way to fathom the length or quality of life left to anyone.”

    This last quote has been my life the past several years. Loving children, teenagers in particular, born to other people. It’s often a thankless job and one even resented because you are “the mom” in the house but never THE mom. And don’t get me wrong, I never ever want to replace their mom but it is a purgatory I would not wish on anyone. Especially kids. So my heart went out to the characters in this book lost in a purgatory of a situation where there were no good answers and no clear signs of heading in the right direction. Sometimes all you can do is love hard and hope for the best despite the unknowns.

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