Tag Archives: book reviews

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Book Review

Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I’ll jump on Reddit or StumbleUpon (remember that one?!) and research true crime mysteries. Maybe it’s the years of watching Law and Order: SVU, maybe it’s my recent obsession with the podcast, “And That’s Why We Drink”, or maybe it’s just my love of all things mysterious, but there’s just something in me that loves reading about murder and mayhem.

The first true crime story I remember being obsessed with was the JonBenet Ramsey murder. I was 12 when the face of JonBenet exploded all over the magazine covers. Back in 1996, the Internet wasn’t what it was today…so the only “research” you could really do was to dive into People and Us Weekly for the latest updates on the case.  Now I could spend hours combing through the 234,000 search results you get when you search JonBenet’s name.

As you can imagine, the internet is now filled with “volunteer detectives” and true crime sleuths who want nothing more than to help catch a predator. There are chat rooms, podcasts, forums, even in-person meet-ups of people who spend their lives looking through old evidence and articles, searching the internet day after day, hoping they’ll find the missing piece that will put an end to the madness.

Most of them don’t find much…maybe a new photograph or an article buried deep in the world wide web…but once in a while someone does find something. Once in a while, someone has a thought, an inkling, a wild out-of-the-blue idea that creates a ripple effect and opens a whole new door that authorities and investigators didn’t even know was there. Once in a while, a curious and dedicated journalist helps put a murderer behind bars.

Image result for ill be gone in the dark book cover

In the 1970s, California was terrorized by a mysterious and violent predator who committed more than 50 sexual assaults and 10 murders. He never revealed his face to his victims, making him near impossible to ID. People started calling him The East Area Rapist and The Original Night Stalker before true crime journalist, Michelle MacNamara, penned him the Golden State Killer.

In her best-selling book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, McNamara dives deep into the case of the East Area Rapist, pouring over police reports, talking to victims, and spending endless hours in chat rooms and forums talking to other civilians who were just as obsessed with this man as she was.

When he was active, the East Area Rapist was a young, athletic man. He always wore a mask and would blind his victims with a flashlight so they wouldn’t be able to see his face. While he favored suburban couples, he also attacked single women, feeding on their fear. He often entered the homes of his victims before attacking them, stealing meaningful family photos, wedding rings, diaries, or letters. He would then attack them when they slept, often tying up the male while assaulting the female, talking to them in a guttural whisper. It wasn’t until later that he transitioned into murdering his victims…then, maybe once he felt the authorities closing in, he disappeared.

Some people thought he moved to another country or joined the army. Most people thought he died…maybe just to ease their own fear that he might return. But McNamara knew better…she knew he was still lurking in the shadows…and she wanted nothing more than for him to pay for his crimes.

In I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, McNamara gives readers an intimate and sometimes graphic portrayal of what it was like to be in California at that time. Through powerful interviews with victims and the lead investigators at the time, McNamara tries diligently to piece together the pieces of this insane puzzle, hoping somehow, somewhere, she’ll find the missing piece that will help the world sleep a little easier.

Michelle McNamara was working on I’ll Be Gone in the Dark while she suddenly passed away on April 21, 2016. Her book was finished and published posthumously by her close colleagues and husband, Patton Oswalt, in February 2018.  In a powerful and bone-chilling part of the book, McNamara talks about the possibility of using genealogy sites like Ancestry.com to better track him down. Ironically, this would be the exact way detectives would track down Joseph James DeAngelo, The Golden State Killer, almost two years TO THE DAY that McNamara passed away.

Like I’ve said, I’ve always been fascinated by true crime stories. I think there’s something ingrained in all of us that enjoys the thrill of the unknown…and maybe the possibility of finding the one piece everyone has been looking for. For McNamara, it was more than just a passion, it was an obsession. She went beyond scoping Wikipedia.com…she completely and utterly submersed herself in this story – and it shows. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is bound to become a classic in the true crime genre, if it hasn’t already. It’s proof that we can all make a difference in this world – proof that sometimes it takes another pair of eyes to see what we’ve been staring at this whole time – proof that with the right amount of determination and passion and strive, even a woman who just gets a thrill out of browsing Reddit and StumbleUpon for interesting stories to read about can completely and utterly change everything.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews

The Portable Obituary Book Review

Whether you’re as beautiful as Grace Kelly, as talented as Mozart, or as rich as Cornelius Vanderbilt, nothing can save you from death.

Image result for michael largo

It’s the great unifier, the one thing we all have in common. The rich and famous die…the poor and unknown die. It’s terrifying and nerve-racking and sometimes quite unexpected…but maybe there’s some strange, weird comfort in knowing how those before us met their Maker, so to speak. Maybe knowing how Elvis died, how Bob Marley, Billie Holiday, Henry Ford, Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth, Thomas Edison, and Ernest Hemingway all passed will help us cope with our own mortality, or at least will give us some insight in what not do to in order to prolong the time we have left.

In his morbid, yet ironically entertaining book, The Portable Obituary: How the Famous, Rich, and Powerful Really Died, author Michael Largo explores the life and death of more than 1,100 famous people (and animals), diving deep into how they died and what actions in their lives lead them to that point.

Ranging in scope from Jesus to Louis Armstrong, The Portable Obituary covers a wide variety of celebrity. Actors, actresses, singers, dancers, and sports heroes are all mentioned, as well as inventors, writers, artists, and presidents. The book is organized alphabetically, with random black and white photos peppering the pages (though the photos lack description, which ended up being confusing in some places).

Similar to his other books, The Portable Obituary can be used as a reference guide or read cover to cover. Each celebrity gets about a 1 to 2 paragraph installment, so reading it cover to cover actually goes pretty quickly. And if you’re worried about it being too dour, Largo does put in little quips and fun stories to help lighten the mood.

If nothing else, this book is a fascinating look into how many musicians die from alcohol abuse and how many celebrities die within weeks of their birthday. It’s ironic to see how the inventors of such fun things as bubble gum and popsicles met such sad endings…and how careless practices in filming locations led to several actors and crew members developing deadly cancers.

From gun shots to gluttony…car crashes to cancers, The Portable Obituary is an interesting, albeit depressing, look into what made our late icons what they are today – dead!

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews

I Had a Really Great Title (But Now I Can’t Remember It)

In the summer of 2014, my mom was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. While I usually keep my feelings pretty close to the chest, I’m particularly covert about my experience with Alzheimer’s and what it’s like to be a caregiver. I would go so far as to say that even my closest friends, my siblings, my husband, don’t even know this part of me. This part of me is tender and raw. It’s continuously healing, then being ripped open again.

Alzheimer’s is about so much more than forgetting your keys or misplacing your glasses. It’s personal and heartbreaking. It’s a slow decline, a constant test in patience and understanding. It’s dealt with moment to moment, second to second and, as someone wise once put it, “…is the slowest and saddest goodbye.”

A few months ago I was approached by a dear family friend about an opportunity to write some poetry about my experience with Alzheimer’s, both as a daughter and a caregiver. While I was apprehensive at first, once I got started, I found I couldn’t stop. Words started pouring out of me so quickly that by the time I was done, I felt utterly and completely empty.

41lrahc4CML

Though I’m a writer by trade, I’m very protective of my personal written words and the thought of sharing this poetry with all of you shakes me to my core. These poems bring to life feelings I never thought I could talk about and exposes a part of me I’ve worked very hard to keep private. The reason I decided to share them and have them published in this book is to help bring awareness, help encourage discussion, help shed light on a topic so many of us fear to acknowledge.

The title of this book is I Had a Really Great Title, But Now I Can’t Remember It (Poems for the Older Generation). If you laughed, that’s okay…you should! As we all age and suffer the bumps and bruises along the way, sometimes all we have is our ability to find the humor in it all.

While this is not a book entirely about the Alzheimer’s experience, all proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to help fund Alzheimer’s research and awareness. For the sake of those fighting, supporting, and protecting, I humbly ask you to consider purchasing a copy of this book. The majority of the poems are written by the wonderful Bill McNulty and I encourage you to also check out his blog (“Still a Poet at Heart”) and the rest of his published books for more of his wise and humorous poetry.

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for reading this post, for purchasing the book, and for doing your part to help our cause.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews

The Snow Child Book Review

I love books that come to life as I’m reading them…books that paint a visual landscape with simple, yet stunning vocabulary. I love books that make me want to jump within the pages, no matter what the story, to fully immerse myself in the landscape…The Snow Child was one of those books.

the-snow-child-book-review

Broken by the fact they are unable to have a child, Jack and Mabel move to a secluded home in Alaska. The brutal environment makes it difficult for the couple to live, let alone communicate. Drifting apart and breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, they are both struggling, in their own way, with loneliness and despair.

During the season’s first snowfall, Jack and Mabel have a moment of levity and decide to build a child out of snow. This small moment of joy brings the couple closer together and the next morning when they look out to see their creation, the snow-child is gone, replaced by a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

A nymph of the forest with a fox by her side, this child somehow survives alone in the 1920 Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel try to learn more about this girl, they begin to care for her as one of their own…and her presence begins to change their relationship in ways they never could have imagined.

This book was beautiful in all the right ways. Not unlike a fairy tale in its telling and ending, The Snow Child comes to life with amazing imagery and plot. While this book didn’t end like I wanted it to, it ended as it should have – with a bittersweet conclusion reminiscent of most fairy tales…leaving the reader feeling happy, sad and hopeful all at the same time.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews

Uncommon Type Book Review

A few months ago, my husband and I took a trip to Portland, OR.  It was a book lover’s/coffee lover’s/food lover’s/nature lover’s dream come true! We stayed in a little Air B & B apartment with a wonderful couple who filled us in on all the must-see things in Portland…one of which was going to Powell’s Book Store.

I had heard of Powell’s before…it was described as “a big Barnes & Nobel”…which is easy to imagine.  But “big” isn’t really a big enough word for how large this bookstore is…for a bibliophile, it’s near impossible to spend less than an hour in that store.  The shelves are stacked up to the ceiling with books…and the store itself is divided into several rooms, each filled – I mean FILLED – with books, gifts, and more. I was in trouble.

Since we flew into Portland with just one suitcase (#pros), I didn’t want to leave with a butt-ton of books that would weigh our luggage down…so I told myself I would buy one book.  Just one.  One lonely, little book from the City of Books.  And I stuck to it!

My one and only purchase at Powell’s Bookstore was a signed copy of Uncommon Type, a collection of short stories by the adorable Tom Hanks.  The book had just come out, so I hadn’t heard much about it…but how could you go wrong with Tom Hanks?

Visual+4

Much like Tom himself, these stories didn’t possess any flair or flash…they didn’t promise to be anything other than what they were – small glimpses into the lives of American people.  What ties all these stories together is the appearance of a typewriter – sometimes the main character in the story, other times just an object on a desk.

I hate to say that I struggled a bit through some of these stories…not in a bad way, just in a nothing-really-exciting-is-happening-and-I’m-getting-a-little-bored kind of way. Don’t get me wrong, I really did enjoy this book and I love Tom Hanks as an actor and as a person, but I guess this book just didn’t live up to the hype I selfishly created for it.

Three stories in this collection really stood out to me above the others. One, titled “The Past is Important to Us”, tells the story of a man who travels back in time to the 1939 World’s Fair, drawn by a young woman in a green dress (slightly similar, yet more disturbing, than the film, Somewhere in Time). Another titled “These are the Meditations of My Heart” talks about how a young girl copes with her breakup by finding a bit of solstice in an old vintage typewriter. Finally the third story, “Welcome to Mars” is about a boy discovering his father’s infidelity. I found it so honest and true that it might just be my favorite one in the collection.

Was this my favorite collection of short stories ever? No. It didn’t surprise me or shock me or leave me wondering about a hanging ending; however, it did entertain. The stories in Uncommon Type were true and honest, albeit normal. They were about everyday people doing everyday things. Some stories are better than others, some stories are funnier than others, but just like Toy Story, You’ve Got Mail, or Sleepless in Seattle, it will most likely leave you loving Tom Hanks all the more.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

3 Comments

Filed under book reviews

Anatomy of a Song Book Review + GIVEAWAY!

WIN A COPY OF Anatomy of a Song BELOW!

Whether it’s Taylor Swift’s “All to Well”, R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, or Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love”, every great song usually starts with one hell of a backstory.

28957313

In Anatomy of a Song, based on the ongoing Wall Street Journal column, writer and music historian Marc Meyers brings five decades of music to life through his oral histories of 45 songs that have had some impact on rock, R&B, or pop culture. Writers, producers, musicians, and singers talk about the emotional meaning behind their songs, as well as the inspirations and techniques that helped every mistake, every nuance, every one-take recording all the more amazing.

When I first read Anatomy of a Song, it was a full sensory experience. After each chapter, I would take a break to pull up each song on YouTube and listen to it in its entirety. I’d listen for the little instrumental queues in “Shout” by the Isley Brothers…or the nods to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in “Proud Mary” by John Fogerty. Listening to these songs in order of release (they are in order of release in the book, also) really shows how musicians and singers are influenced and motivated by each other. I even put together a YouTube playlist with the songs in order for your listening pleasure!  For anyone with an appreciation for music and writing, this book is a fascinating read.

Check out my Anatomy of a Song playlist on YouTube to listen to all the songs featured in this book!

Filled with interviews by Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, The Clash, Stevie Wonder, Keith Richards, Cyndi Lauper and many more, Anatomy of a Song is a love letter to the music that defined generations of listeners.

GIVEAWAY! 
Want the chance to read this book yourself? Well, you’re in luck because I happen to have a copy to give away to one lucky reader!  All you need to do is write a comment below with your favorite song growing up and what it meant to you.  I’ll pick a random winner from the comments on December 8th!  Good luck!

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews

Hygge Week:  The Little Book of Hygge Book Review

There’s a reason Denmark has been named one of the happiest countries in the world.  Despite the cold harsh winds and the snowfall and the dark stormy winters, Denmark remains #2 on the list of the happiest countries (for comparison, the US is placed at number 14).  Put simply, the reason the Danes remain so content is that they are one of the only countries to fully and completely embrace the hygge lifestyle.

As we’ve been talking about all week, hygge is all about being comfortable.  It’s the art of creating intimacy and taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things, such as big comfy blankets, candles, hot drinks, warm socks, and delicious food.  Hygge cannot really be explained…it’s there to be felt.  It’s cuddling up on the sofa with a loved one or sharing a rich pot of stew with your closest friends.  It’s staying in your bed on a Sunday afternoon or listening to the fire crackle as you read your favorite novel.

While you don’t need a book to tell you how to feel comfortable, it certainly can’t hurt!  Filled with great advice on how to turn your living space into a cozy, intimate wonderland, The Little Book of Hygge is your ultimate guide into embracing hygge.  It was the “Bible” my husband and I used to make our home more hygge, and we find ourselves coming back to it again and again for more ideas, recipes, and party suggestions.

the-little-book-of-hygge-1

Written by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, this book is best read alongside a cup of hot tea and a piece of cake (or two!).  Meik has spent years studying the hygge lifestyle, and his research has found that hygge really is the magic ingredient that makes the Danes one of the happiest nations in the world.

As we’ve discussed this week, this book was the fuel that encouraged us to embrace the hygge lifestyle and I’m telling you…THIS WORKS.  You can read all the self-help books you want…watch all the shows and read all those quotes on Pinterest…but just the simple act of making your life more meaningful, spending time with the people you actually like, eating foods that are delicious and sensual, and filling your home with soft candlelight, warm blankets, and comfy furniture…this is the secret.  Rather than buying a lamp, try some candles.  Instead of buying wall art from World Market, try making something yourself using natural items.  Rather than buy a blanket from Walmart, knit or crochet one yourself!

It’s not hard to make your home a happy place.  Some simple changes can not only improve your dwelling, but can maybe even improve your overall happiness.  So get those winter socks out of storage…wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket and turn off that freaking phone.  Make some rich hot cocoa or some tasty spiced cider and give yourself over to the magical world of hygge.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews