Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark; One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

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Category: A Book First Published in 2018

A standard bedtime routine. Put on your pyjamas, brush your teeth and read a story to your daughter before bed. Your family goes to sleep.
Instead of joining them, in her daughter’s playroom surrounded by toys and dolls, author Michelle McNamara would boot up her laptop and search for a serial killer.
McNamara spent years searching for the man she dubbed the ‘Golden State Killer;’ a man who terrorised the state of California for a decade between the mid 1970’s to the mid 80’s, leaving 50 rape and 11 murder victims in his wake.
A search so obsessive, it cost her her life.
McNamara finished only two thirds of her book before she passed away in her sleep in 2015, leaving her husband, friend and research assistant to piece together and finish her book.

Like many people, my attention was drawn to McNamara’s book when, in April of this year, 2018, Californian Police annouced they had a DNA match and arrested the Golden State Killer… less than three months after the release of McNamara’s book.

McNamara paints a picture and brings sleepy mid 70’s suburban California to life, a direct contrast to the horrors she writes being committed behind closed doors.
McNamara writes of a killer so calculating he would watch his targets for months before attacking. He would break in to their homes, learn the layout, disarm firearms, move furniture for hasty getaways. He would phone them to learn their routine. Repeatedly breathe down the phone. Then he would attack.
McNamara pieces together over ten years of evidence in an attempt to gain clarity and uncover the identity of the man who terrorised neighbourhoods for over a decade.
Thirty-two years after his last murder and two months after the release of this book, they arrested the Golden State Killer and called him so; an ode to McNamara, surely.
A relevant, must-read True-Crime book.

Four and a half/Five stars

Book Review: My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

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Category: A Book with a Family Member in the Title

Caution: Trigger warning.
Kate, a war-zone reporter has returned to Herne Bay following her mother’s death. As she attempts to deal with the PTSD of her job & her alcoholic sister, Kate is haunted by the trauma of her most recent assignment in Aleppo. Not to mention that being home raises the grief of the loss of her little brother during infancy. Unable to mend her relationship with her alcoholic sister or find her missing niece, Kate is supported by her brother in law. Struggling to sleep, she begins to see and hear things during the night. There’s a wee boy next door, who looks just like her brother, only, it can’t be. He’s obviously neglected, but no one believes that he exists and her neighbour insists she doesn’t have a child. Is she going mad?

Determined to save the boy next door when she was unable to in Aleppo, Kate is driven to uncover the truth that will severely change the lives of her family forever.
My Sister’s Bones is a dark story that takes readers down the path of many types of manipulation and abuse and how it is calculated and hidden. Affairs, alcoholism, assault, miscarriage, sexual and emotional abuse, murder and imprisonment are explored in this dark and raw, emotional novel that will be sure to leaving you asking questions about the motivation of men and hardiness and resilience of women. Whilst upsetting, My Sister’s Bones is one of the more thrilling novels I’ve read in recent years.  

Four/Five Stars

Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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Category: A Book Set in a Foreign Land

France, 1940. As sisters, Vianne and Isabelle couldn’t be more opposite. Vianne, older, married, with a child has waved her husband off to the front to help defend France from Hitler when her younger sister arrives. She disapproves of Isabella, younger, outspoken and kicked out of school after school due to her poor behaviour and inability to comply or follow instructions. She’s a liability. As the Germans invade France the war arrives not just in their town, but forces itself into their home in the form of SS Captain Beck. Vianne wants to toe the line in order to keep her home and her daughter safe. Isabelle, angry and rebellious wants to fight, and hard.
Each sister sets off on a journey of their own, fighting and surviving in the face of adversity.

This is a beautifully written story set in the most desolate of settings. Reminiscent of The Book Theif and All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale differs in the shaping of it’s older, determined female characters. Hannah so eloquently shapes these two very different women in to strong, resilient heroines, who will stop at nothing to keep their family and others safe. Isabelle and Vianne are well constructed, their struggles and motivations real. The way Hannah has conveyed the raw desperation of survival during occupied France is written in such a way as to make it real for the reader, but not in a way which overpowers the hope and optimism our heroines are fighting for. The brutality and horror of the Holocaust is communicated when required, the realities of war explored in a way that allows the spirit of our heroines shine. The first third of the text takes a slower pace to the rest of the book, but once there, you won’t want to put this novel down. The last six pages will be sure to conjure a tear or two and break your heart.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, much more than anything I have read in the past two years. I felt so connected to the characters and mourned their exit from my life once I had finished reading, the first book hangover I’ve had since reading The Bronze Horseman. 
Much like All the Light You Cannot See and The Book Thief, The Nightingale attempts to embody the spirit of determination, resilience and the overwhelming sense of what’s right and good in the world during the darkest of times. If you enjoyed these texts, you will enjoy The Nightingale.

Five/Five stars.

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

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Category:
A Book Recommended by a Friend (via @160books)

Recently divorced Laura tends to elderly poet Anthony Peardew and his mansion. When he passes and leaves his estate in her name she discovers the secret he has kept for more than 40 years. Locked away in his study, the room she was forbidden to enter, are hundreds of lost treasures Anthony has collected since losing the two most important things to him; his wife, and the trinket she gave him the morning of her death. Pained by his loss Anthony begins collecting, classifying, and storing any and all lost objects he encounters in the hope that one day they will be reunited with their owners and his own mistake will be forgiven. In order to inherit his fortune, returning these items to their owners becomes Laura’s task.
Spanning multiple years and storylines, Lost Things is a tale of human resilience, love and hope. Inter-dispersed with poetic short stories giving life to the missing objects, this is a light, pick-me-up read, which appeals to the view that every object has a story. It tugs at your heartstrings with stories of the resilience of the human spirit and the need for reunions, healing and closure.
With the support of friends, Laura begins to find the owners of the Lost Things, and in the process rediscovers herself and her happiness. This book is recommended for those looking for an easy, uplifting read about resilience and kindness in this manic world.

Four/Five stars

Book Review: The Girl in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware



Reading Challenge Category: A Nordic Thriller

Rattled travel Journalist Lo Blacklock has survived a home invasion which puts her relationship on the rocks as she leaves for the biggest assignment of her career. Filling in for her sick boss, she is off on the maiden voyage of a luxury boutique cruise liner, travelling around Norway and the North Sea in search of the Northern Lights. On board, the glitz and glam of how the other half live leave Lo stunned. But not as stunned as when, in the middle of the night, a body is thrown overboard from the cabin next to hers…
Still reeling from having her home violated, Lo is determined to seek justice for the woman thrown overboard. The more she pushes the topic, the quicker she learns there is no one on the boat she can trust.
The Girl in cabin 10 is more plain sailing than thrilling boat ride. Much like her debut novel, Ruth Ware has constructed a simple story, with unconvincing characters. Their actions lack any convincing motivation and she fails to give the reader clues to build suspense, opting instead to spring advances in the story on the reader instead. She has even recycled a ‘missing cellphone’ angle from her first novel, which lacks originality. Even when our heroine finally sets foot in Norway the author just manages to articulate her struggle for survival and justice. The Girl in Cabin 10 shoots and misses when it comes to being thrilling, but may be enjoyable for those looking for an easy read.

Two/five stars.

Reading Challenge

I love reading.
It makes me happy.
There’s nothing like getting completely consumed and lost in a good book.
But sometimes life gets in the way and the reading can slip by the wayside.

To make reading and the joy it brings a priority in my life I set myself challenges.

The first is on GoodReads. I set myself a challenge to read x amount of books a year.
Living overseas and travelling and commuting so much, I was easily reading 25+ books a year.
This dipped significantly, so I decided half that amount would be good.
12 books a year, one a month. That’s my goal.

Then I discovered that my local Library also has a reading challenge. 
Whilst the name they chose has more a Mills & Boone connotation to it, (Adult Reading Challenge…?!?)  I like the idea of a Residents Reading Challenge.

So, follow along as I stretch my reading horizons and leap out of my comfort zone (from the comfort of my sofa/bed/back deck).

It’s time you loved yourself a little more

There’s many, many benefits to living on your own. The mess is all yours and you can clean it when you want.  No one bothers you when you’re relaxing or doing something that requires undivided attention. Music – whatever you want, as loud as you want. No one eats your food without telling you, unless you count the dog getting into the rubbish as such. The list goes on. But the most important of all.
You can be naked.

As-naked-as-you-like.

You see, it’s recently come to my attention that there are people in this world who are so… I’m unsure which word is the most appropriate… uncomfortable/dissatisfied/disappointed/prudish/ shy/non-confident… which ever it is, they feel this about their own bodies so much so that they cannot bear to be naked for longer than necessary. Undress, in and out of the shower, dress again. That’s it. That’s the only time their body is allowed to breath and be free. There are people so uncomfortable with their own nudity, that they run for cover (literally) at every chance, regardless if someone else is around or not. There are people who cannot be along with their own bodies.
And this saddens me to the nth degree.
I find it so profound that you wouldn’t like your body…  because, well… I love my body, and I think everyone else damn well should as well.

“That’s easy for you to say, you’re a thin little thing!” some of you are thinking.
I’ve heard it all…
“You’re a rake!”
“There’s nothing to you!”
Fuck off. I’ve heard that, and many other things similar to it before. But I don’t love my body because it’s ‘petite’. Like yours does, my body flucates. And let me tell you…  I have been heavier and felt the same about my body as I did when it was 10kgs lighter. I still loved it, regardless of it’s shape. I don’t love my body because of the genetics Ive been given or that my body type may be percieved as small. I love it, because it’s mine.

Advertising, popular culture, and nowadays, the rise of social media have all feed thoughts and ideals in to my head of what beauty is.
Well, what their idea of beauty is.
And you know what… there is one group, and one group only who are largely represented…
Young, thin, tall, beautiful people. Not to forget that most of them are white. That’s important as well.

Do you feel represented with this group?
I know I certainly don’t, and I bet you don’t either. It is an unattainable standard.
And the truth is, no one lives like that. Not even the models themselves think they can live up to their screen shots.

I don’t feel thin or petite. I don’t identify as thin or skinny, I don’t think about the shape of my body being more desirable than others. I just feel like myself. Because it’s all I know. It’s my body, and it’s the only one I’ve got. And I think I would regardless of my height, shape or size. You see, I love my body because even though it beats up on me all the time (see my previous posts about my journey with Crohn’s Disease) it’s bloody amazing. Your body (yes, you!)… IT’S AMAZING.

IT KEEPS YOU ALIVE!

I mean…. we’ve got thumbs for crying out loud!!! How amazing is that?!

However, in this media saturated world we live in, I have had to work very hard at loving my body. I’ll be the first to admit that I can pick flaws in my body… my immune system for one. I found my strength in the thing that I felt the most ashamed of the most; nudity. As soon as I started spending more time with my body, I became more comfortable with it.

Advertising and social media is doing it’s damn well best to ensure that none of us feel as if we are normal by their standards. That we don’t live up to hteir expectations but…. if we buy the product… we might be like them! The people they choose to represent their brands all seem to have similar body types which they want us to aspire to look and be like. But in reality we know that they are not representative of our everyday lives and interactions with others. Yes, they have beautiful bodies, but they’re not the only ones with beautiful bodies. People with curves, people without curves, people with big asses or no asses, or huge breasts or big thighs, or little legs and a big body or the exact opposite or a mixture of all of it… small shoulders, big shoulders, big feet, small hands, as thin as a rail…. every little everything. Legs that don’t function, a twisted spine, un-seeing eyes, ears that wouldn’t, couldn’t work or stopped working, colestomy bag…
Diversity is strength, and YOUR diversity is strength.
WHATEVER body you have… all of it is worth celebrating.

So, disregard the advertising, I say. Beacause the beauty you need to see in the world is all around you, in your daily life.
It’s in the generosity of your colleagues, in the laughter of your friends, in the compliments you give and recieve. The love you get from your family. The genuine interactions you have on a daily basis that make your heart shine. That is where the beauty and the love is… In the people that you build you up, and in turn, build you up as well.

But the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter how much anyone else loves your body, it won’t count if you don’t love it. And you should. It keeps you alive. It allows you to do all the things you do. It is bloody amazing. Wrinkles, smile lines, grey hair… whatever.
Love it, because it is you.

So take a leaf out of my book; have a gin and kick everyone out of the house. *Turn the lights out, take your kit off and turn the music up. Have yourself a little dance party and enjoy being with your body and in your body. ‘Cause it’s the only one you’re gonna get and you may as well enjoy it while you can.

*Shutting the curtains are optional. Depends how dark it is or confident you are.