Something Old, Something New: True Crime

It’s been a week or two since an installment of Something Old, Something New (SOSN) has been posted. The way this works is simple. Something Old is a book I’ve read and Something New is one I haven’t.

When I was selecting the books for my True Crime week, I came across two books that I felt would be perfect for this genre and SOSN.

With one slight caveat: my Something Old is fiction. But, my dear bookworms, it (sadly and most horrifyingly) could very well be non-fiction. So I went ahead and added it to the mix.

You can be the judge of whether you think it was an appropriate choice.

Something Old:

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a book I read several years ago and continues to remain on my top ten list of favorite books. No one had recommended this book to me, but rather I kept seeing it at my local used book shop. Every time I came across this book I would find myself thinking that it had a strange title. I can’t really explain why the title is strange to me, maybe because it seems so plain. I don’t know.

One day I finally grabbed it and stuck in my stack to buy. I didn’t read it right away either. I had never read anything by Lionel Shriver and totally assumed Lionel was a man (the only Lionel I had ever heard of has a last name of Richie), but he is actually a she. It doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things, just a little food for thought (that, and you can correctly refer to LS as a she if this book were to ever come up in conversation. You’re welcome).

More time went by. One afternoon I was looking at stack of unread books and WNTTAK just kind of slightly screamed, Read me right now. Since I don’t like being screamed at, even when it’s silent screaming (fyi: only books know how to silently scream), I said, Ok, you’ve made your point, I’ll read you right now.

This book is a million things.

You know right from the start that Kevin is in prison because he has killed seven of his high-school classmates and two others right before his sixteenth birthday.

Much of this book is in the form of letters from Kevin’s mother Eva, to her estranged husband, Franklin.

The story opens in the present but revisits the past before Kevin’s birth and begins the rest of the story from that beginning. The rest of the book goes back and forth between those two time periods.

Eva is a complicated woman. I think many may not like her, and some may even vilify her. I found her quite genuine and honest with her feelings, and if for that reason alone, I like her. Even if she isn’t/wasn’t the most maternal, she never tries to hide that fact. She questioned having children from the very beginning and in my opinion was never a hundred percent for it. But having children is one of those things you can’t compromise on, you have them or you don’t. I do feel that she loved/loves Kevin, but people show love in different ways. Sometimes the recipient of that love doesn’t or can’t feel that love and of course there are bound to be consequences. But you can’t know-no one can know how each person will ultimately turn out. There isn’t only one right way to parent well. Eva openly wonders in these letters to Franklin if her thoughts regarding having/not having children were passed on to her child while she was pregnant, this having a negative effect on him.

This book is such a perfect example of nature versus nurture. Neither can be solely to blame. There are some disturbing things that Kevin does in the course of this story, when he is really young, that to me, seems like his evilness was there from the start. But if someone is more prone to be evil or act criminally does that mean nothing can change that? What do you think?

Something New:

My Something New is A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold. Her son Dylan Klebold, along with Eric Harris were the two boys responsible for the thirteen killings and wounding twenty-four people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999 before killing themselves.

“For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?” (From back cover)

These are, unfortunately such pertinent books in today’s world. We live in a culture where school-aged children pick up weapons and take the lives of those around them in an instant.

Years and years ago, this didn’t happen in our schools, now it’s become almost a rampant epidemic. This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue and I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution.

Are the majority of morals that bad at home versus years ago? Are children not disciplined appropriately, we know they aren’t at school, because school teachers and administrator’s hands are tied, afraid they will be sued if a child is looked at the wrong way. Is it because so many children are being raised by grandparents who are tired and shouldn’t be saddled with this responsibility? Are these even the right questions to ask- I have no idea. And if these aren’t the right questions, what hope is there in finding the right answers?

My intentions are not to sound hopeless, but rather to continually ask questions in a world that is rapidly changing. How do we teach our children answers we don’t have as adults?

“In a country that doesn’t discriminate between fame and infamy, the latter presents itself as plainly more achievable.”

-Lionel Shriver, WNTTAK

“Children live in the same world we do. To kid ourselves that we can shelter them from it isn’t just naive it’s a vanity.”

-Lionel Shriver, WNTTAK

Advertisements

Where Do Monsters Lurk?

My interest in true crime books goes way back. I’m thinking I was in junior high when I was introduced to this genre via a book written by Ann Rule.

To this day I have read all of her books or close to it. Sadly she passed away a few years ago so there will not be any new books. Ann Rule was a policewoman before she became an author, which only added to the authenticity of her writing. Although the subjects and associated people she wrote about were horrifying, her books were not gratuitously disgusting or over the top. Her books are well thought out and well researched. Rule’s presence within this genre is sadly missed.

Thinking about this week I wanted to cover a good variety of true crime books for you. Typically murder comes to mind when I think about this genre, but the word crime covers a multitude of acts. Learning about the inner-workings of the minds of criminals is fascinating to me. The age-old debate of nature vs. nurture will only continue to be examined. Are people born with certain genes that allow them to be more susceptible to committing these acts-or does an experience cause them to snap? Personally, I believe it’s both.

What do you think?

Today’s Book:

I read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi a few years back. I can’t remember if it was recommended or if I just picked it up because it sounded interesting.

This story is an incredible one.

Imagine getting the chance to live in another country that you has always dreamed of. This is exactly the chance that Douglas Preston and his family were able to do when they moved from the U.S.A. to Florence, Italy.

After getting settled in their farmhouse in Florence, Preston gets the chance to meet up with the famous journalist, Mario Spezi.

As the two get to know each other Spezi shares some interesting information with Preston. The olive grove next to Preston’s new home was the scene of a horrible double murder. These murders were committed by the “most infamous figure in Italian history-the Monster of Florence (back cover).”

Preston is fascinated by this information. Of all places he and his family could have found a house- the one they choose has such a terrible story right next door.

He and Spezi begin their own investigation in to this monster who killed fourteen people, but was never caught.

This is the true story of their search to find and confront the man they believe is responsible for these crimes.

In the midst of their search, you learn about the city’s own bloody history. As the two men become more and more involved in this hunt, they actually become targets of a crazy police investigation.

If you enjoy true crime or even just have an interest in history, I think you will enjoy this book. It’s a little over three hundred pages, but is quite fast-paced.

This is a book I’ve kept after finishing for two reasons. I not only found it to be such a great read, but also I wanted to be reminded to recommend it to others who like this genre.

Oh-to answer the question asked in the title:

Where do monsters lurk?

Everywhere, my dears. So watch your step.

More to come this week!

“We all have a monster within; the difference is in degree, not in kind.”

-Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, The Monster of Florence

September Wrap-Up & An October Preview

September and October are two of my favorite months.

It’s still a little warmer than I’d like it to be, but the sky is beautiful and the mornings are beginning to cool, so that’s a start. The older I get, the more I find myself embracing the colder weather. I feel like this is the opposite of how everyone else feels, but oh well. I think it’s mostly because I’m obsessed with sweaters and sweatshirts.

Although I feel like I’ve read a lot this month, I’ve only finished a total of five books. In just the last week and a half, including last night, I received five new books from Overdrive! Three are new releases, so if I don’t get to them this time around I know my wait is going to be crazy long when I put them on hold again-ugh.

The 5 from Overdrive:

1. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

2. The Institute by Stephen King

3. Chances Are by Richard Russo

4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (I put this book on hold back in the spring- my library only has 1 or 2 digital copies of it, so it took FOREVER.)

5. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware (this is the third time I have put this book on hold!!)

I want to read them all right now!

Below is my September wrap-up & ratings:

1. Doctor Broad by Deborah Roberts. Non-fiction. This was a digital ARC from #Netgalley. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Below is the Amazon synopsis:

• For decades, starting in the 1950s, Raymond Patriarca ran the New England Mafia out of a storefront in Providence, Rhode Island. By 1980 he was seventy-two years old, and suffering from diabetes and heart disease. One night in December of that year his life intersected with that of Dr. Barbara Roberts, a thirty-six-year old single mother of three, who was the first female cardiologist to practice in Rhode Island. Asked by Raymond’s family to check on him after he was arrested on capital charges, Barbara—a naive Alice in Wonderland—entered a looking-glass world populated by pitfalls, moral ambiguities and dangers for which her devout upbringing had not prepared her. How did a former Catholic schoolgirl from a working-class family become the physician and defender of one Mafioso, and the mistress of another? How did her children handle these scandalous associations and the resulting hostile publicity—and what were the reactions of their fathers?
Expanding on the story first told in the popular Crimetown podcast, this memoir is a tale of motherhood, political activism, controversy, heartbreak and survival; it traces one woman’s trajectory against the backdrop of America’s 20th century upheavals •

I liked this book and it had a very interesting storyline. The only aspect that got on my nerves was the constant mentioning of Dr. Roberts’ political activism (she is a very staunch feminist). I have no problems with what she chose to get political about, it just seemed like a major portion of the book kept coming back to that. It’s always interesting to read about people who have different beliefs and it did pertain to the story somewhat, but I was more interested in the sections concerning her and her care of Raymond Patriarca.

2. Educated by Tara Westover. Non-Fiction. This was my bookclub September selection. I read a hard copy edition and loaned my copy out, so it didn’t make the picture. We had some interesting discussions about this book at our meeting this past Friday. I was very surprised that it wasn’t unanimously loved-because everyone seems to love this book. I liked it, but enjoyed (books in a similar vein) The Glass Castle by Janette Walls and Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance more so. ⭐️⭐️⭐️& 1/2

3. The Giver by Lois Lowery. Fiction. I read this on my Kindle. This book was assigned reading for my older son. I have wanted to read this for awhile and had bought a really cheap e-copy a few years back. My son and I ended up liking it so well that I ordered us each (and it’s SO pretty) a hardback book that has the entire quartet inside. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. Fiction. This was an e-copy from Overdrive. It was one of the new ones mentioned above. I read Eileen by this author, which was strange but good. This book was strange and not as good in my opinion. I read it in two days, so it was a fast read, but I’m not sure I recommend it. It was just interesting enough to keep the pages turning, but the premise was strange and not all that believable. I guess because I liked the weirdness of Eileen I stuck with it. ⭐️⭐️& 1/2 .

The Amazon synopsis is below:

• Our narrator should be happy, shouldn’t she? She’s young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a powerful answer to that question. Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world. Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers •

5. Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Fiction. This was my favorite of the month and a Pulitzer Prize winner to boot. I started this a few weeks ago, maybe even in August, it’s almost 500 pages, so definitely a longer read. As much as I loved it, I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone and here’s why. This story follows a small, mostly blue-collar town in Maine that was once centered around a large textile factory. When it closed, the town kind of closed with it. This story follows the people that have lived there before and after the closing. It’s basically a story about life. Small-town, the gossip, not a whole lot going on, yet somebody is always doing something. I think you either like these types of stories or think they are really boring. I just happen to be one that really likes them. Russo also wrote Nobody’s Fool (which is a great movie and I had no idea it was a novel when I watched it), which is another story about small-town life. Russo has such a way of capturing and writing authentic sounding scenes and dialogue. It’s actually incredible how real every character feels and sounds. It sort of reminds me of the movie (if it were a book), Grumpy Old Men. Definitely a similar feel. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️&1/2.

Now that September is almost over, I am really excited for a few posts I have in mind for October.

Starting tomorrow and through Friday I am going to be posting some books that fall under a category called:

I don’t think these books will be at all what you think. So, check back tomorrow if I’ve peaked your interest!

“Was anything in the world truer than that intuitive leap of the heart?” -Richard Russo, Empire Falls

(This was a favorite quote I came across while reading).

A Feast Fit For A Bookworm

Are you all getting tired of me professing my endless love of Friday ? I hope not, because it’s out of my control. So, if you decide to stick with me and this blog, you’re stuck with my gushing about Fridays- but only on Friday.

Friday is for favorite things and posting about them. My favorite things are books, dessert, and wine. Not in any specific order of importance, but all at one time. Sort of like a miniature feast. So let’s get the feast started.

The Book

I came across How to Disappear by Akiko Busch in one of the various book review publications or emails I receive. The title in its entirety is, How to Disappear- Notes on Invisibility in a time of Transparency. It’s not a long book, coming in at exactly 200 pages.

I would be finished with it if I wasn’t putting ‘Note Pals’ on every other line. There are so many statements, ideas, and phrases that ring true to me.

The main idea of this book being many people are so concerned with image consciousness, branding themselves, and just simply putting themselves and their lives on display. Busch argues against this notion saying, “The impulse to escape notice is not about complacent isolation or senseless conformity, but about maintaining identity, propriety, autonomy, and voice. It is not about retreating from the digital world but about finding some genuine alternative to a life of perpetual display.”

Yes, yes, and yes.

Another section talks about how children today do not shy away from the camera as much, and actually primp a little in their awareness of one being present. Busch alludes this to the fact that children in today’s culture came straight from the womb being photographed and posted. Because of this, children and teenagers associate, “being unseen as negative,” says Busch.

Since I am only halfway through, below is the Amazon synopsis:

How to Disappear is a unique and exhilarating accomplishment, overturning the dangerous modern assumption that somehow fame and visibility equate to success and happiness. Busch presents a field guide to invisibility, reacquainting us with the merits of remaining inconspicuous, and finding genuine alternatives to a life of perpetual exposure. Accessing timeless truths in order to speak to our most urgent contemporary problems, she inspires us to develop a deeper appreciation for personal privacy in a vast and intrusive world •

For being such a short book it packs quite a punch and I haven’t even finished it. The copy I am reading is from the library, but since I have sticky-noted so many pages, I think I need my own copy. I recommend this book if you feel annoyed and/or overwhelmed with the constant ridiculousness of this social media-obsessed world we unfortunately live in. This book does not berate or insult, but rather provides an introspective view on the idea that, “the human species is finding a renewed interest in passing unnoticed.” So despite this attention-crazed world, there is a small, growing percentage of people who are taking a step back from it all. By taking a step back, much beauty is realized. The last paragraph of the introduction ends with a quote from ceramic artist Eva Zeisel. She was asked how you make something beautiful. Her response was, “You just have to get out of the way.”

The Dessert

Tonight’s dessert is the Low-Carb Reese’s Cup. The only thing I did different from the other times I posted was I added larger walnut pieces to the peanut butter fudge part. I didn’t measure, but rather just tossed a handful in the mixture before I froze them. Below is the link to the post that features this recipe:

https://themostconstant.com/2019/08/31/something-sweet-something-devine-something-with-pages-all-three-might-be-mine-but-id-share/

The Wine

This is a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Vally in California. I fully admit I bought it because the name, Imagery, reminded me a lot of the mostly image-obsessed world we live in. Hopefully this wine doesn’t leave the same bitter aftertaste that social media usually does. In the end, I’ll take my chances on a new bottle of wine over social media any day of the year, but that’s just me.

Hope your weekend is wonderful.

Cheers.

“& if the world comes knockin’, tell em’ I’m not home.” – E. Church

Something Old, Something New

Hey Bookworms, happy almost Friday.

This is the second installment of Something Old, Something New.

Two books. Something I’ve read (old) and something I haven’t (new).

I have way too many books. I’m not complaining at all, simply stating a fact. I only keep what I’ve read if I really loved it. So if I loved it, I want to share with you. And, since I’m continuously acquiring new books, I want to share those as well.

I read Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown about two years ago. The story of Billie Flanagan, her husband Jonathan, and their teenage daughter, Olive has stayed with me. Billie, who is an avid hiker goes on a solo hike one day and doesn’t return, only her shattered cellphone is found.

Jonathan begins to drink more in the aftermath of her disappearance, which only adds to the strain of the relationship with his daughter. As Jonathan takes on a project of writing a loving memoir about his marriage, he begins to uncover secrets from Billie’s past. At the same time Olive starts having visions of her mother being alive.

This book allows many questions to arise. How well do you know the people closest to you? Is the relationship you have real? How does being a wife and a mother define a person?

This was the first book that really allowed me to view motherhood from the atypical vantage of not letting and/or wanting it to consume you. Some women are born to be mothers, some are not, and many drift somewhere in the middle. Children are all consuming for awhile and in a good way, but after awhile it’s easy to lose sight of the women who existed before her children did. The character of Billie Flanagan is complex, I guess as we all are. This story gives you the privilege of being able to see Billie from her view, her husband’s, and also Olive’s.

There is a line that I can quote from this book to this day:

“Leave and they hate you, die, and they love you forever.” -Billie Flanagan

This story has you guessing until the very. last. page. Read it.

I’ve made this statement time and again:

I want to like the books Ian McEwan writes. I’ve tried Atonement a few times and couldn’t get in to it. I’ve tried this, On Chesil Beach, and I am determined to like it. First off, the size of the book combined with the cover design, silently scream of its elegant beauty. I realize this has nothing to do with the story inside, but it should. That being said, the few times I have tried reading it, it’s kind of gone stale. I’ve chalked it up to bad timing.

Here is the Amazon synopsis:

• It is 1962, and Florence and Edward are celebrating their wedding in a hotel on the Dorset coast. Yet as they dine, the expectation of their marital duties become overwhelming. Unbeknownst to them both, the decisions they make this night will resonate throughout their lives. With exquisite prose, Ian McEwan creates in On Chesil Beach a story of lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken •

What do you think? Have you read it? Are you a big McEwan fan? I also have The Children Act on my shelf, but it’s also unread. His last two novels, Nutshell and Machines Like Me also intrigue me, but it’s like I have a mental block when it comes to reading his books. Why?

Are there authors that you want to read and like, but ultimately struggle with? Tell me I’m not alone!

Side note, I am still reading Lonesome Dove. Since I am reading a physical copy and it’s so large, it stays on my nightstand. It’s not a book that gets read when I have a spare five minutes standing in line, because it’s not lugged around in my purse. So if you are anti-e-reading or if you’ve never considered it, this is one of the instances it comes in handy to have an e-reader of some sort. Just a thought 🙂

Sincerely,

tmc

“Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” -&Stephen Fry

Cloudy With A Chance Of Clouds

• Thank #RandomHouse via #Netgalley for this ARC of The Warehouse by Rob Hart •

Today is publication day for The Warehouse by Rob Hart. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this novel and the movie rights have already been acquired by Ron Howard.

This was a fantastic read and I do recommend it. I was given an ARC in part because I had given a favorable review for Recursion by Blake Crouch on Netgalley. After reading The Warehouse, although the story and writing style differ from Crouch’s, I do think if you are a fan of Crouch you will enjoy this book.

Below is part of the review I posted on Netgalley:

This story follows Paxton and his job at an all encompassing company called The Cloud, which is quiet reminiscent of another large company that exists today. In addition, The Cloud also reminded me a bit of the tech-giant company in another book called The Circle by Dave Eggers, which is also a good read.

As Paxton cannot believe his luck at landing a position at The Cloud, Zinnia never thought she’d be investigating (undercover) The Cloud. She is sent to uncover what makes The Cloud work, to find out its secrets. Life and work at The Cloud is meant to offer entertainment as well as a wonderful career, tied up neatly together. As Zinnia learns more, she realizes her relationship with Paxton will be at stake. Obviously trouble is bound to follow. This novel is fast-paced and will keep you guessing.

Go check it out, because “success begins with you,” or so they say at The Cloud.

Sincerely,

tmc

“And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life.”

– David McCullough Jr.

Something Old, Something New

Rather than ‘something borrowed and something blue,’ this is ‘something old and something new.’

I was looking at my bookshelves today and thought of something. About twelve years ago, due to a move and then not having any bookshelves I got rid of almost all my books. My collection wasn’t large at all back then, but I had read most everything I owned and not having any shelves posed a problem. I kept a few favorites and stuck them in a closet. Horrible, I know.

I’m older and thankfully much wiser (ha!) now. That, and my husband built some incredible bookshelves (which I’m sure he regrets because it only made my book collection grow) for me. The majority of the books on my shelves are unread because I have been working on building my collection over the past several years. I do keep what I’ve read, but only if I really love it.

So looking at my shelves I thought it might be fun to do a post on ‘something old, something new.’ Meaning, something I’ve read and kept (“old”) and something I haven’t read yet (“new”).

‘Something old‘: Nemesis by Philip Roth

My neighbor, friend, and fellow bookworm Frank gave this book to me a few months back. I devoured it in about two days. It’s about the polio epidemic of 1944 and the effect it has on a tight-knit community in New Jersey. Going in to this book, I knew a little about polio. Typically children today are vaccinated against it, but I know before the vaccination existed, many who contracted it were left paralyzed. What I didn’t know is that it often killed those who contracted it, and quickly. It came on with a fever and then quickly escalated in to a terrible disaster and tragedy. This story follows a twenty-something playground director who begins losing some of the children he cares for to polio. No one was able to uncover where or why polio was becoming rampant in that area. He ends up working at a summer camp where the air is supposed to be “pure of contaminants.” From there the story continues its devastating path. I do recommend Nemesis, if anything it will give you an introduction to Philip Roth. Continuing on yesterday’s thread, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral in 1998.

Here is ‘Something New’: The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern

This book has been around for a few years now, but I’ve yet to read it, so it’s new to me. Morganstern has a new book out this November titled, The Starless Sea. TNC looks like a fun read and I know many of you have read it-so please share your thoughts about it. Did you enjoy it, do you think it’s worth reading?

For those bookworms who are out of the three-ring-circus loop like me and haven’t read this, here is the Amazon synopsis:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

‘Something Old and Something New’ is new to this blog. It came about sort of on its’ own and I think I’ll let it run its course, unless I run out of books!

Sincerely,

tmc

“My life is a reading list.”

– John Irving