Tag Archives: Bookworm

Helter Skelter

I feel I should pre-fix this post with a little disclaimer about true crime enthusiasm. I love true crime, my podcast list is peppered with real life stories of murder and horror – I can’t get enough and I’m not entirely sure why.

Obviously I’m a massive horror fan but I feel that actual true life horror goes against why I love those movies so much. There’s comfort in letting myself be scared but also knowing that it’s all fantasy. Stories like this reinforce that there really are monsters out there – and that’s terrifying in a whole new way. It’s probably the psychology of what makes a monster that gets me – and this true account of the Manson murders is no exception. How on Earth could one man be responsible for such horrific carnage when he wasn’t even present on the nights of the murders?

Well, Helter Skelter takes us inside the media circus and tries to answer some of those questions. I just want it to be clear that I don’t believe Manson deserves any of the adoration he’s always received. There’s a mystique to him obviously but he was a horrible, evil manipulator and he doesn’t deserve to be revered as a rock star. See also: Ted Bundy.

It’s taken me almost two months to the day to finish this massive tome, more for the fact that the content is as brutal as you can imagine. It goes in deep on the Sharon Tate murders, adding details I had never read before. I thought I knew most of what there was to know about that particular crime but I didn’t, it’s awful and senseless – and not for the faint-hearted.

But that’s not why this book took me so long. It’s just so court-roomy. Author Vincent Buliosi was a high-profile American attorney and best-selling author – and the chief prosecutor in the Manson trial. He basically took that fucker and the other accused Family members down to China Town, securing the death penalty for all of them (until it was abolished in the state of California).

Sugar and spice these girls are not

I won’t rehash it all here, if you’re interested then the chances are you’ll read this on your own or already have. The detail is fascinating as is the trial, it just isn’t the fluffiest of reads and not one I was eager to devour every night. What gripped me most were the stories of the Manson girls, all young and many of them damaged in their own ways. I can’t even comprehend the nature of their relationship with master manipulator Charles Manson, who thought of himself as the second coming of Jesus. Something they also believed.

There are a lot of surprises in this book – one of the highlights is the speculation as to how many murders The Family actually committed. Some of members claim there are upward of 40 clocked up, however in most cases there’s no proof and sometimes, not even a body.

I definitely recommend this but it is heavy and not the easiest read.

Book details:

Helter Skelter
Publisher: Cornerstone
ISBN-10: 0099975009
ISBN-13: 978-0099975007
Bought secondhand paperback for myself

What are you reading?

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2019 and a New Reads List

The best thing about the new year is signing up to a new Goodreads Reading Challenge. So far, over the last few, I have failed to complete a single year – or if I’ve got anywhere near I wouldn’t know as I’ve failed to log the books I’ve read.

There’s not much to the rules of the challenge to be honest. You input how many books you want to read that year and then, as you complete each one, you check them off on the GR app. It’s quite addictive, at least in the first couple of months as you rack ’em up and see you percentage achieved rise (I’m currently on 12% with six out of 50 books done).

Anyway, I love to read and I love to buy books even though I shouldn’t and I’ve got some real peaches in the immediate pile (anyone else got piles in order of importance?). Here are some of the ones I’m most excited for:

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

I mean, what a title. It’s also meant to be an absolute belter so bring it on!

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

I’m obsessed with this cover and even more intrigued by the subject matter. I think this is definitely next in line for me.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I’ve recently read Eileen by the same author (reviewed here) and it was gorgeous so this is a no-brainer. It sounds awesome:

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature.

Men without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami

I’ve always been a big fan of Murakami but somewhere along the line I read too much of his work and needed to take a long break. I’m back in the game now after I read his little short Birthday Girl. There’s just something about his prose.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

A classic I’ve not yet read though I’ve devoured the film many times and adore it (boo Polanski). Cannot wait to dip into this deeply unsettling world again.

Help by Simon Amstell

I love Simon Amstell and find him very clever and funny. Darren and I have seen him a couple of times doing stand-up and that’s was enough to make me snatch this up as soon as I saw it.

From a complicated childhood in Essex to an Ayahuasca-led epiphany in the Amazon rainforest, this story will make you laugh, cry and then feel happier than you’ve ever been.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

I’m currently reading this bad boy and it’s started well with a definite The Woman in Black flavour (which is mentioned on the cover with a bi-line by Susan Hill). As far as I’m concerned you can’t lose with Gothic literature but I just hope this is good as I suspect it’s going to be.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel

I got the movie tie-in novel after seeing the very, very good movie adaptation on Monday night (review to follow). I loved Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel and frankly, I wanted more as soon as the credits rolled. So this is going to be a lot of fun. What an ingenious idea for a scam though.

Lee Israel’s hilarious and shocking memoir of the astonishing caper she carried on for almost two years when she forged and sold more than three hundred letters by such literary notables as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, Noel Coward, and many others.

Adèle by Leïla Slimani

Slimani’s Lullaby (know as The Perfect Nanny in some countries) was dynamite. In turn beautiful, odd and shocking, it tells the story of how the perfect nanny came to murder the young children in her care. Adèle centers around a seemingly perfect wife, mother and career woman (of the same name) who leads a very secret double life.

~

I might have to cancel the rest of the month so I can get fully immersed. I will be reviewing as I go too so watch this space.

What are you reading?

Eileen

Eileen is one of those novels that grips you to the final page but doesn’t quite give you the pay off you’re expecting. Not that you really mind when the character is as rounded as Eileen Dunlop. The writing here is so descriptive that Eileen practically pops off the page and this is the reason I really enjoyed it.

The story goes a little something like this: Eileen is a middle-aged woman when we meet her but as the narrative unfolds, she regales us with a tale from her early twenties. A tale it seems that has paved the way for the rest of her life, up to present day.

The daughter of an ex-cop, Eileen dreams of the day she can leave her dreary life and unfulfilling job behind. When glamorous Rebecca Saint John arrives at the juvenile prison Eileen works at, our protagonist’s world is set ablaze with bizarre and potentially devastating consequences.

Oooooh!

Again, what I enjoyed most about this book was the way Ottessa Moshfegh paints a picture. Eileen is not an attractive character per se but she is so vividly molded by the author that she becomes something else altogether. As she just about tolerates her home life and the increasingly unstable behaviour of her largely unloving father, Eileen builds an inner fantasy life around the prison.

Lusting after one of the guards, our girl engineers scenarios in which he falls in love with her and her (love) life finally begins (she also dedicates a great deal of her waking day waiting outside his apartment in her car). She also admits that the youthful inmates she’s around every day have an effect on her too and I like the scenes in the prison the best. I love a prison setting and the psychology of why people do what they do and Eileen gives us snippets of their lives to savour.

When Rebecca appears we explore this element in more depth. I couldn’t really fathom where the ending would take us, apart from knowing that Eileen finally leaves her depressing home town for a bigger life – and this is part of the reason I enjoyed my experience so much.

The ending is probably the only part that made me scratch my head a little bit. It’s not that it’s bad and it’s not that it doesn’t fit, it’s just turned out differently to what I expected and I think that’s a good thing. I won’t spoil it but if you do read, I’d like to know your thoughts.

I definitely miss Eileen Dunlop. She’s not your typical heroine but I’d love more of her. I’d like to know more about how her life developed after the events of this book – and way beyond. As a middle-aged woman, she alludes to some of the relationships she’s had throughout her life and I’d like to hear her talk about them.

Ottessa is a great novelist and I will be exploring more. STAT.

Book details:

Eileen
Publisher: Vintage; 01 edition (18 Aug. 2016)
ISBN-10: 1784701467
ISBN-13: 978-1784701468
Gifted paperback for Christmas

What are you currently reading?

UPDATE: Realised after posting (no I didn’t, Meghan told me) that I’d been calling it ELAINE throughout. Jesus.

Conversations with Friends

If Conversations with Friends were a film (and maybe it will be), I would describe it as ‘talky’. This is not a criticism because I like my entertainment peppered with well written dialogue, be it written word or on the screen. But they don’t half go on the central characters and literally do what it says on the tin.

The story itself is quite straightforward. Best friends and former lovers Bobbi and Frances meet Melissa, a well-known journalist when she interviews them for a magazine. The pair quickly become entangled with their new friend and her literary life, though Frances more so with Melissa’s actor husband, Nick. So begins an interesting and at times stressful foursome that looks set to change things up forever.

Sally Rooney‘s writing is delicious. Honestly, I don’t often read a book and wish deeply that I could write in the same way. There’s something about the introspection of Frances that got deep under my skin and I wouldn’t call her a like-able character by any stretch. I may have related to her at times but she isn’t someone who immediately demands sympathy and she would be the first person to admit she is a cold fish. Melissa doesn’t warm to her initially either, not because she can sense a closeness between Frances and Nick but because she’s unfriendly and stand offish.

Despite this, we follow Frances as she becomes more involved with Nick and she even goes to stay with the couple in France for the Summer, Bobbi in tow. Frances struggles with these new feelings of vulnerability but also has to face an unspecified (to begin) health condition, her relationship with her alcoholic father and her own sense of belonging.

Bobbi is an interesting character, a woman who repels as much as she intrigues and she can be a lot to take. She doesn’t let up on Frances however and always calls her out on her shit. I think we all need a friend like that. I don’t really like the girls that much, though I love flawed characters and love to read them. Maybe I’m a little bitter about my own youth slipping away and having to be faced with these two beautiful girls with everything going for them and talent to spare. All I know is that I devoured this book in a couple of days and truly can’t wait for Rooney’s next book, Normal People.

The writing makes me want to cry and at one point Frances ponders the fact that she doesn’t have her own personality yet. I felt that. I mean, I hope I do now but I always used to worry that I was a brittle cocoon of emptiness just waiting to solidify – so I really felt that.

I miss it already.

Book details:

Conversations with Friends
Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (1 Mar. 2018)
ISBN-10: 9780571333134
ISBN-13: 978-0571333134
Bought mass market paperback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Rebecca (Book) Review

I know, I know, it’s criminal in some respects that I hadn’t read this before last month. It boasts everything I hold dear in literature (Gothic landscapes, strong women, drama, murder, suspense) and yet somehow I just never got round to it. It’s the same with Jane Austen, I feel close to the subject matter but I’ve never actually read any of it (sue me). But when I saw this cover I was sold immediately and a lot of friends weighed in to confirm that this is their favourite book of all time. Well, it was clearly time to pick it up and give it a go.

And?

Well! It’s one of the best books of all time, isn’t it? While I thought I might be predicting quite a lot of what happened, I can’t be sure I haven’t seen an adaptation and forgotten about it in my 40 year life. But it was magnificent and delicious – and above all, relatable. In the sense that haven’t we all, particularly as women in a patriarchal world compared ourselves unfavourably to others a thousand times?

That our heroine, the unnamed narrator and new Mrs de Winter is living in the shadow of a perfect and lovable ghost is heartbreaking, who could possibly compete? Thankfully there is always more to the story than meets the eye and the tale that unravels is classic and cool as fuck.

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Vintage Rebecca cover

In case you’re like me and have been happily chilling under a rock all your life, a cheeky little synopsis for Rebecca:

Our narrator, a naive 20 something companion to a rich American lady meets wealthy widower Maximilian de Winter in Monte Carlo. Despite her lack of life experience, the two embark on a swift courtship that results in marriage. Our nameless heroine soon finds herself back in England, living on Maxim’s sprawling West Country estate Manderley and the phrase fish out of water has never rung truer. Haunted by the ghost (figuratively) of Maxim’s first wife, the breathtakingly beautiful Rebecca, the new Mrs de Winter spends her time wandering the estate, wondering if she’s made a massive mistake.

While Maxim isn’t cruel per se, he is often aloof and Mrs de Winter puts this down to him still being in love with his late wife, who drowned in a tragic boating accident only a year before. She might even be able to get on with it if i wasn’t for the deliberate cruelty of bitchy housekeeper Mrs Danvers (surely stiff competition for Nurse Ratched as baddest villainess of all time), who adored Rebecca and relishes every tiny dig.

But as mentioned above, things are not always as cut and dry as they seem and there is plenty more drama before the book is over. Rebecca is an impeccably crafted, paranoid love story that will make you furious on one hand and desperately sad on the other.

What I enjoyed most is that it gives us a heroine who is cut from a different cloth. She’s mousey, angsty and nothing special as far as she’s concerned and yet she has the steel to stay and fight for what she wants and women like that don’t get enough airtime. Her scenes with Mrs Danvers are stressful and every time Rebecca is mentioned by a staff member I wanted to scream – let it go people, she’s dead!

I think this is a book that will just keep giving, an annual revisit sounds like the most comforting thing I can think of and honestly, I enjoyed every word Daphne has set down for me. And lucky me, our local Picturehouse Cinema is showing Hitchcock’s adaptation on the big screen in a couple of months so I’ll be all over that like a rash.

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Various covers for Rebecca, including the copy I have (middle)

Book details:

Rebecca
Publisher: Virago (16 July 2015)
ISBN-10: 0349006571
ISBN-13: 978-0349006574
Gifted paperback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Girl Gang: Stephen King Character Edition

Inspired as always by the brilliant Meghan Lightle and her Avengers Girl Gang, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mighty female characters of Stephen King’s books. While some of his books are decidedly female-ccentric, it isn’t always the girls that get the glory. I’m here to round them up for my own personal girl gang needs.

Beverly Marsh

“I’m not afraid of you!”

Our Bev is a fighter and no mistake. A victim of childhood abuse at the hands of her father, she grows up to fulfill her creative dreams but still has to deal with the weak bullshit of men throughout her life. The only girl in the Losers Club, I feel like Bev could do with some girl power in her life, not that there’s anything wrong with the dynamic of that original squad (icky adolescent orgy aside).

Bev isn’t afraid to get stuck in when it comes to bullies nor stick up for what is right at all costs, and these are qualities you need in a friendship circle. Plus, she’s a ginger like me (in the book and most recent adaptation).

streaming-king-the-dark-half

Timothy Hutton and Amy Madigan (as Elizabeth Beaumont) in George A. Romero‘s The Dark Half (1993)

Elizabeth Beaumont

In The Dark Half, Elizabeth is a plucky and resourceful character who has to deal with an awful lot of upheaval when her author husband Thaddeus takes on his supernatural killer twin, George Stark. Stark is best described as other-wordly and not altogether human, born of the page created by Thad himself. When she finds herself caught in all the drama of Stark’s ‘birth’ (read the book), Elizabeth remains level-headed and pragmatic. She’s a mother lion ferociously protecting her twin cubs (twins run the family, what can I say) and she doesn’t suffer fools.

In all of Thad’s scenes I wanted to read more about Elizabeth, who deserves more than just a supporting role. More female central protagonists please, Mr King!

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Chloë Grace Moretz (2013) ~ Carrie cover ~ Sissy Spacek (1976)

Carrie White

“It was time to teach them All a lesson, time to show them… a thing or two!”

Okay, so Carrie is a little bit freaky deaky but she’s a talented telekinetic and how fun would that be? You could have her tip cups of coffee over mansplainers all day long with no come back.

Plus, how much did Carrie just need a damn good friend to stand beside her and say, You’re fine babe just as you are and these high school days, they mean nothing in the end? I’d take her under my wing and I’d just have to be sure I never upset her.

(Admittedly, the movie version of Carrie White seemed a little fluffier than the book version).

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Shelley Duvall (1980) ~ Rebecca De Mornay (1997) ~ Wendy Torrance fan art

Wendy Torrance

Mrs T is slightly irritating but she’s also a damn survivor and that makes her okay in my book. She’s quick to pick fault in her husband Jack but to be fair he’s not the nicest dude (in the book more so – he breaks his son’s arm even before he goes insane in The Overlook).

I think we’d get on because I know what it’s like to be in a relationship that has you walking on eggshells (past, don’t worry) and I kind of dig her kooky wardrobe. She seems like fun when she’s not stressed out.

Who’s in your gang?

UPDATE: A friend on Twitter pointed out that she’d choose Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne for not putting up with any shit from men and I realised I’d forgotten to add Rose to my list.

Dolores I’m sure is a worthy contender but I haven’t read her story yet, and can barely remember the film. So shout out to these two women who are welcome to join the gang anytime!