I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

Published October 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

What did I think?:

If you’re a regular follower of what’s new and what’s hot in the literary world, I don’t think you can have failed to see how much of an effect the true crime book, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark has had on its readers. As with every hyped book, of course I approached it with some trepidation which was also coupled with some unease and a lack of familiarity with the genre in general. My other half, Mr B is quite taken with some true crime podcasts but to be honest, I haven’t really gelled with anything I’ve listened to yet. The worry then was that I’ll Be Gone In The Dark would be a similar experience and I SO wanted to love it, after hearing the highest praise about it from fellow bloggers. Now personally, (please don’t hate me!) this book wasn’t quite the five star read I was anticipating and that was a shame – I had definitely elevated it to astronomical proportions in my mind and sadly, it just didn’t reach those dizzying heights. HOWEVER, there are parts of this book that are utterly fantastic and that I thoroughly enjoyed and I would still recommend this as a must-read book if you’re at all interested in this infamous case or the genre in general.

The late author Michelle McNamara and her husband, Patton Oswalt.

This is the true story of The Golden State Killer and his reign of terror over about a twelve year period that led to thirteen murders, more than fifty rapes and over one hundred burglaries in the state of California. The most fascinating thing about this particular case is how often this one man managed to evade police, leaving very little evidence that would ensure his capture and the way in which he terrified his victims. In the early years of his brutal activities, DNA testing was very much in its infancy and detectives had to rely heavily on anything left at the scene and eyewitness statements. However, our perp was incredibly adept at slipping under the radar and even as his crimes began to escalate, he still managed to escape the authorities and leave them frustrated, confused and eventually despondent. McNamara herself becomes engrossed with the case and spent countless hours often working long into the night, trying to piece together small scraps of evidence, communications between the police and eyewitnesses that may lead to the incarceration of such a sadistic and deplorable criminal.

One of three primary composite sketches of The Golden State Killer.

By FBI – https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/unknown-suspect-21, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60645485

Part of what makes this intriguing work so poignant is that Michelle McNamara sadly died quite suddenly as she was in the middle of writing this book. It has been pieced together by crime writer Paul Haynes, investigative journalist Billy Jensen and her widower Patton Oswalt who obviously had access to the files and notes she was working on. In a strange way, this was one of the things I appreciated about this book and in another way, that’s why I haven’t rated it any higher. Let me try and explain. It was fascinating to read about Michelle’s research, part of it in her own words and part of it in other words and I adored her gutsy determination, passion for justice and effort that she put into the whole project. Nevertheless, I feel like that is one of the problems with I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. At points, it really doesn’t read very well, as if it has been pieced together by too many people (which it has!) and unfortunately, this led to a rather disjointed, haphazard and uneven kind of reading experience as I made my way through it.

I don’t think it helped that I read this book over a period of about a month in little portions at a time. I often found I lost track of the narrative and there were so many facts and figures it made it slightly overwhelming to absorb occasionally. Possibly it may have been better if I had concentrated fully on this book and nothing else until I had finished it? Perhaps, I’m not sure. Saying that, there are some truly wonderful things about this read that make it memorable and still stand out in my mind. I won’t give too much away but there are moments when the author describes our killer’s usual protocol as he enters a house and the terrors that he subjects his victims to whilst he is in there. During these parts of the narrative, it read almost like a suspense or crime novel and I was on the edge of my seat, it was utterly horrifying. I kept reading parts out to Mr B – “did you realise he did this?,” and “how can one man be so sadistic?!” I’m sure he was getting fed up with me by the end!

So to sum up, this is an incredibly gripping read that I believe fans of true crime would really devour. If you’re like me and not a usual true crime reader, perhaps go into it with realistic expectations but I’m sure you’ll find it to be a dramatic and haunting experience. I certainly know there’s passages of this that I’ll never, ever forget!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Blog Tour – Without Rules by Andrew Field – BOOK SPOTLIGHT

Published October 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When a professional hitman turns up at Candy’s World to hide, China Mackie discovers her plan to flee from her abusive father has tragically backfired. A gruesome bloodbath has left four people dead on the streets of a northern city centre on a cold wet Sunday morning. China knows she’s next to die. Unless she is more ruthless than everyone else. She must improvise fast. Seduce her father’s assassin. Plead her case so he helps her escape in a fight to the death where rules don’t matter but the consequences do.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Andrew Field has spent most of his working life as a PR and marketing consultant helping raise the profiles of others. Now the roles are reversed as he steps into the spotlight as the author of Without Rules, a crime thriller about vulnerable people forced to do bad things to escape evil people. “Authors, by the nature of what they do, are relatively introverted. They work in isolation. Inhabit imaginary worlds of their own creation. They can spend ages staring at a computer screen bringing their characters to life. Then they have to become a different person to promote their work and market themselves. Writing is the easy part compared to the marketing, especially when crime fiction has become a very crowded marketplace.”

“From my point of view, professional PR people operate best from behind the scenes. They should never become the story otherwise you’re deflecting attention away from the messages you’re trying to communicate,” says Andrew. “The New Labour experiment, for example, was doomed the minute Tony Blair’s media guru Alistair Campbell generated his own headlines. Bragged about ‘spin’. Believed his own hype. Ditto Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure as the shortest-serving White House communications director in history – and his “off the record” expletive-ridden rant about his colleagues in Donald Trump’s White House.”

As a PR, Andrew memorably handled Boddingtons Bitter during its “Cream of Manchester” heyday, developing innovative sports and cultural media partnerships with newspapers and TV stations for the beer brand – but also PR’d a fashion entrepreneur who was a convicted armed bank robber and a property developer who did eighteen months prison time for blackmail. “Having a diverse range of clients keeps it interesting. They are all different but the core requirement is to be seen as a believable and trusted information source ready to take advantage of PR opportunities as and when they arise. As a novelist, you look to do exactly the same with your work and yourself.”

“The catalyst for Without Rules was a friend testifying against her father in an abuse case. Although the prosecution was successful, she can never really escape the consequences of what happened to her. She has to find a way of coping for the rest of her life while he was sentenced to two and half years.”

Andrew says crime fiction has a duty to try and educate and as well as entertain. “The memorable books are the ones you’re still thinking about 48-hours after you finished reading.”

Andrew lives, works and plays in Manchester, England, Europe, with his partner, Catherine. He has been a trade journalist in Southampton in his youth. He owned a PR agency in the nineties and early noughties and is now an independent PR, marketing and publishing

consultant looking forward to the challenge of becoming the story with the publication of Without Rules.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AFwithoutrules

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrewfieldwithoutrules/

Website: http://andrewfield.info/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/afnoir_/

Purchase Links:

Andrew Field’s online bookstore: http://andrewfield.info/shop/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Without-Rules-Does-justify-means-ebook/dp/B07DVL69PJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1537214050&sr=1-1&keywords=without+rules+andrew

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Without-Rules-Does-justify-means-ebook/dp/B07DVL69PJ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537214080&sr=8-1&keywords=without+rules+andrew

Thank you so much to Emma Welton, blogger extraordinaire and the brains behind damppebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. Without Rules will be published by Boomslang on Monday 15th October 2018 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Without Rules on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41722331-without-rules?ac=1&from_search=true

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #26 – Four Random Books

Published October 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four YA novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) It’ll Ease The Pain: Collected Poems And Short Stories – Frank J. Edwards

What’s it all about?:

In an age of hyperbole and phoniness, Frank J. Edwards creates images and narratives that ring true, yet reveal life to be more interesting than we realized. Even if we have seen hundreds of TV shows about emergency departments, Edwards’ story “It’ll Ease the Pain” paints a portrait of one doctor’s 24-hour stint that is fresh and unforgettable.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) The Princess Saves Herself In This One (Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #1) – Amanda Lovelace

What’s it all about?:

“Ah, life- the thing that happens to us while we’re off somewhere else blowing on dandelions & wishing ourselves into the pages of our favorite fairy tales.”

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) Admissions: A Life In Brain Surgery – Henry Marsh

What’s it all about?:

Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical front line. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered.

Following the publication of his celebrated New York Times bestseller Do No Harm, Marsh retired from his full-time job in England to work pro bono in Ukraine and Nepal. In Admissions, he describes the difficulties of working in these troubled, impoverished countries and the further insights it has given him into the practice of medicine.

Marsh also faces up to the burden of responsibility that can come with trying to reduce human suffering. Unearthing memories of his early days as a medical student and the experiences that shaped him as a young surgeon, he explores the difficulties of a profession that deals in probabilities rather than certainties and where the overwhelming urge to prolong life can come at a tragic cost for patients and those who love them.

Reflecting on what forty years of handling the human brain has taught him, Marsh finds a different purpose in life as he approaches the end of his professional career and a fresh understanding of what matters to us all in the end.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) How To Be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax

What’s it all about?:

It took us 4 billion years to evolve to where we are now. No question, anyone reading this has won the evolutionary Hunger Games by the fact you’re on all twos and not some fossil. This should make us all the happiest species alive – most of us aren’t, what’s gone wrong? We’ve started treating ourselves more like machines and less like humans. We’re so used to upgrading things like our iPhones: as soon as the new one comes out, we don’t think twice, we dump it. (Many people I know are now on iWife4 or iHusband8, the motto being, if it’s new, it’s better.)

We can’t stop the future from arriving, no matter what drugs we’re on. But even if nearly every part of us becomes robotic, we’ll still, fingers crossed, have our minds, which, hopefully, we’ll be able use for things like compassion, rather than chasing what’s ‘better’, and if we can do that we’re on the yellow brick road to happiness.

I wrote this book with a little help from a monk, who explains how the mind works, and also gives some mindfulness exercises, and a neuroscientist who explains what makes us ‘us’ in the brain. We answer every question you’ve ever had about: evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, kids, the future and compassion. How to be Human is extremely funny, true and the only manual you’ll need to help you upgrade your mind as much as you’ve upgraded your iPhone.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Graphic Novels.

Book Tag – Shelfie By Shelfie #12

Published October 10, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image edited from: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame image created by Jannoon028 – Freepik.com</a>

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new tag – Shelfie by Shelfie that I was inspired to create late one night when I couldn’t sleep. If you want to join in, you share a picture (or “shelfie”) of one of your shelves i.e. favourites, TBR, however you like to organise them, and then answer ten questions that are based around that particular shelf. I have quite a large collection and am going to do every single bookshelf which comprises both my huge TBR and the books I’ve read and kept but please, don’t feel obliged to do every shelf yourself if you fancy doing this tag. I’d love to see anything and just a snapshot of your collection would be terrific and I’m sure, really interesting for other people to see!

Here are the other Shelfies I’ve done: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  7 8 9 10 and 11.

Anyway – on with the tag, it’s time for the first shelf of my second bookshelf and we’re looking at the bottom part of the image i.e. not the top shelf with the monkey bookends (which was covered in Shelfie by Shelfie 11!).

And here are the questions!:

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Like the top shelf, some of these books are mine but most of them are Mr B’s. He’s read through a lot of these titles but is determined to keep them even if there’s no chance he’ll read them again in the future. Well, with my book collection I can’t really complain, can I?! 😀

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

Ahhh, I do have a special book on this shelf. It’s one of the very first books I bought Mr B when our relationship had just started and it’s because he’s a big fan of the Perry Bible Fellowship cartoons by Nicholas Gurewitch. The book is called The Trial Of Colonel Sweeto And Other Stories and is a collection of some of his best comic strips. I actually emailed the author to ask if there was a collection available so I could buy it for Mr B and he sent me the loveliest email back. For this reason I’ll always treasure this book a little bit. I’ll just slot in an example of one of my favourite cartoons – beware, they’re slightly mature so perhaps not appropriate for very young readers!

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

Sadly, that would have to be NW by Zadie Smith. I’ve tried a few of Zadie Smith’s books now and I don’t know what it is but I just don’t get on with her writing style. I can appreciate she’s a good writer of course but something just doesn’t gel with me. Mr B is a bit more of a fan so the only reason this is still on my shelves is that he still has to read it.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

It would be Lord Of The Flies by William Golding. It’s one of my favourite classics and I need to save it from this shelf anyway as it should be on my favourites shelf – oopsie!

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

Hmmm. *goes off to take a closer look.* Okay, I think that would be Teach Yourself Complete Italian (part of the Teach Yourself range). Mr B bought it for me just before we visited Rome (and Italy) for the very first time. I had all good intentions of starting to teach myself as I’m slightly obsessed with Italy but for some reason, have just never got around to it!

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

I think that would be Waiting For Doggo by Mark Mills. I believe I won this one in a Goodreads giveaway and still haven’t had the chance to get round to reading it yet. I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read it yourself?

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

In The Light Of What We See by Sarah Painter. I keep looking at this book and meaning to put it on my TBR and…you’ve guessed it, it keeps getting pushed further and further back.

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There’s a few objects on this shelf that I’ve removed so you can see the books a bit better but the item I’ll talk to you about is this little creature here:

Mr B and I picked up this strange, grinning skull as a souvenir from a well needed holiday to Mexico in April. We don’t normally buy souvenirs on holiday but there was something about this skull that we both loved and we were both determined to have it!

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

I know you’re probably a bit worried now you’ve seen the skull and the cartoon book…… BUT hopefully it says that I’m a reader of many tastes, even if they venture to the odd and quirky.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

I won’t tag anyone but if anyone wants to do this tag, I’d be delighted and I’d love to see your shelfie.

For other Shelfie by Shelfies round the blogosphere, please see:

Chrissi @ Chrissi Reads FAVOURITES shelfie HERE and her Shelfie by Shelfie 2 HERE.

Sarah @ The Aroma Of Books Shelfie 1A, 1B, 1C 1D and 1E

Dee @ Dees Rad Reads And Reviews Shelfie HERE

Jacquie @ Rattle The Stars Shelfie HERE

Stuart @ Always Trust In Books Shelfie #1 HERE and #2 HERE.

Jennifer @ Tar Heel Reader Shelfie #1, 2, 3, 4  5, 6, and 7

Paula @ Book Jotter Shelfie #1 HERE.

Gretchen @ Thoughts Become Words Shelfie HERE.

Kathy @ Pages Below The Vaulted Sky Shelfie by Shelfie #1 HERE.

Jenn, Eden and Caitlynn @ Thrice Read Share A Shelfie HERE.

Nicki @ Secret Library Book Blog Shelfie by Shelfie HERE.

CJ @ Random Melon Reads Shelfie by Shelfie HERE.

Thank you so much to Chrissi, Sarah, Dee, Jacquie, Stuart, Jennifer, Paula, Gretchen, Kathy, Jenn, Eden, Caitlynn, Nicki and CJ for participating in Shelfie by Shelfie, it really means the world to me. Hugs!

If you’ve done this tag or you’re one of the people above and I’ve missed out one of your shelfies please let me know and I’d be happy to add you to Shelfie by Shelfies round the blogosphere!

COMING SOON on bibliobeth : Shelfie by Shelfie #13

The Name Of The Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) – Patrick Rothfuss

Published October 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe.
You may have heard of me’

What did I think?:

If you’re a fan of fantasy and haven’t heard of this book, I really would be quite surprised. This book has been EVERYWHERE and compared to the greatest fantasy series out there, including Game Of Thrones (which I still have to read, I know…don’t judge me!). I’m not the biggest connoisseur of fantasy I have to admit, I’ve just been dipping my toe (or should that be nose?) into the genre in recent years but everyone I follow on book tube who enjoys fantasy have been simply raving about this world and its charismatic main character, Kvothe. However, the biggest problem with this series is that die-hard fans have been waiting for a long time for the next book in the series to come out. The first book, The Name Of The Wind was released in 2007 and the second, The Wise Man’s Fear was published in 2011 but as yet, there has been no whisper of when the third novel, thought to be entitled The Doors Of Stone will be released. That’s an awful long time to wait!

This is one of the reasons that I’ve been putting this series off. It irks me slightly when I get fully invested in a story and I have to wait an unspecified time to get my next fix – call me impatient but that’s just the way I feel! I think when you’re a blogger or a voracious reader like myself, because we read so much, if we have to wait too long between books in a series, there is a risk that certain aspects of the previous novel may be forgotten or indeed, the whole impact of the narrative itself will fade. It’s one of the reasons why I was so pleased that all the books in The Dark Tower series by Stephen King had been released by the time I got round to them. I don’t think I would have had any nails left if I had been forced to wait for the next instalment!

Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name Of The Wind, the first novel in The Kingkiller Chronicles.

I took it as a sign when the lovely booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath recommended The Name Of The Wind to me when I attended a reading spa with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. Yet still, I delayed reading it for months afterwards until recently, I finally caved and simply had to see what all the hype was about. I don’t want to tell you too much about the synopsis but as the above quote from Goodreads doesn’t give ANYTHING away I can tell you a few things. This is the story of an innkeeper called Kvothe whom when our story begins, is telling the story of his life over three nights to a travelling chronicler who is recording it. Kvothe has led a highly intriguing life and even the mention of his name provokes rumours, legends, criticism and acclaim far and wide both locally and nationally. I think it’s safe to say that he’s had quite a few adventures in his relatively short time on the planet so far and faced many adversaries, one of which is connected to a terror stalking the land in the present time and Kvothe might be able to shed some light upon as soon as his tale is told.

A beautiful illustration from the tenth anniversary edition of The Name Of The Wind by award-winning fantasy artist, Dan Dos Santos.

Image from: https://www.unboundworlds.com/2017/05/patrick-rothfuss-name-wind-gets-10th-anniversary-edition/

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this work of fantasy but it certainly wasn’t what I ended up getting, personally speaking. I want to try and explain what I mean without sounding like I’m criticising it because in truth, there’s really not much to criticise! Firstly, if you’re a fan of epic fantasy, world-building and mesmerising, intense passages where sometimes, not much happens, you’re going to love this book. However, if you’re more interested in a fast, action-packed plot this may not be the book for you. I’m a huge fan of both literary and genre fiction as you might know and recently, am becoming much more of a mood reader. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something quite pacey and plot heavy, other times I want beautiful, lyrical writing with character development that I can just get lost in. The Name Of The Wind for me, felt much more literary in its quality but perhaps that could be because I’m not used to epic fantasy? I’d be happy to be corrected on this fact if all fantasy is quite slow and methodical in this regard!

There really is nothing bad I can say about this novel. I loved that we got to see Kvothe from a very young age as his talents, intelligence and capabilities are just beginning to take root and then the reader gets to see him grow into a man as the story continues, facing such hardship, devastation and personal struggles both emotionally and financially but with each challenge, he somehow manages to claw himself out to the other side. He has been irrevocably changed by what he has seen and experienced but because you get to see his journey from such a young boy, you really feel like you know him as an individual and I found myself constantly rooting for him to triumph in any given situation. Nothing is tied up with a neat little bow (which I appreciated) and he does go through incredibly tough times but this all serves to make him the man he is in the present time, telling his story to the chronicler.

For so many readers, The Name Of The Wind is a five star read and now that I’ve finally read it, I can definitely see why. The only reason I can’t give it five stars is that I found the pace to be slightly slower than I would have liked at certain points in the narrative but this was only occasionally at times when Kvothe is a student at the University. However, I am delighted to say that I will be continuing on with the series but I may leave it a little while until the next book in the series is finally released – for if I read The Wise Man’s Fear and there’s a cliffhanger at the end, I might not be able to contain my frustration at not being able to get my hands on the next in the series immediately!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss was the forty-eighth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

 

Talking About Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon with Chrissi Reads

Published October 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: We both read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by the same author. How do you think this book compared?

BETH: I really enjoyed The Trouble With Goats and Sheep but for some reason, it wasn’t a five star read for me like I know it was for so many other readers. I wasn’t expecting to be completely blown away by Three Things About Elsie at all. I knew I would probably enjoy it as I thought with her first novel, Joanna Cannon had a very engaging writing style and wrote fantastic characters but I still wasn’t prepared for how much I would end up enjoying this. It was an emotional. poignant and stellar piece of fiction that had a huge impact on me.

BETH: Without spoilers, how fitting did you think the title of this book was?

CHRISSI: I thought it was a very fitting title to the story. Throughout the story, we know two things about Elsie and there’s something else about her too…which I can’t spoil. I think the title was a good match and there was lots of reference to it within the story which was a lovely touch.

CHRISSI: What feelings did this book evoke for you?

BETH: SO many feelings. In her first book, Joanna Cannon chose to focus on two young girls as protagonists, with Elsie she has gone to the other end of the spectrum and we see the lives of Florence, Elsie, Jack and many others in a retirement home. I loved the relationship between Florence and Elsie in particular but also liked that this novel had a hint of a mystery about it regarding the re-emergence of a character from their past and why it evokes such feelings of fear in Florence as a result. This novel also touches on memory loss and dementia which was quite hard to read about and heart-breaking in points but ultimately, I think the author handled it very sensitively and it was an intensely moving read for me.

BETH: Did Florence’s failing memory change your understanding of events at Cherry Tree? Does it make her a less reliable narrator?

CHRISSI: I do think that Florence’s failing memory did make her a less reliable narrator for sure. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to herself, remembering things wrong or hiding secrets that she wanted to keep locked away. The story really did unravel slowly, with a very mysterious element, it took me a while to understand what was going on.

CHRISSI: Did you feel engaged with the story all the way through?

BETH: I honestly did. I adored the way in which we got little throwbacks to Flo and Elsie’s past as the mystery of the new resident at the retirement home continues to unravel but I think my favourite parts about this novel were the little pearls of wisdom that Joanna Cannon throws in, some of which really spoke to me on a personal level and I even tweeted about, I felt so strongly at the time! For example: “Sometimes you go through an experience in life that slices into the very bones of who you are, and two different versions of yourself will always sit either side of it like bookends.”

BETH: What do you think makes Florence ultimately realise that she HAS lived an extraordinary life, in the end?

CHRISSI: I think when Florence is lying reminiscing about what she does remember of her life, her memories with Elsie make her realise that her life has been quite remarkable. She is forced to think of secrets that she’s kept hidden. It is her interactions with Elsie that makes her think about her life and all of the events that have happened to her.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who?

BETH: I loved all the characters to be honest, even the ones who were meant to have a more malevolent side to them! Obviously, I had a soft spot for our leading lady Florence and often wanted to be there having a chat, a cup of tea and some Battenberg cake with her but I also really enjoyed the character of Jack who is so supportive to Flo that it made my heart burst a little bit. Handy Simon is also a fabulous character and I found myself really rooting for him to find happiness all the way through the novel.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t think I gel with this author’s writing style. It’s nothing against Joanna Cannon’s writing. I can see and appreciate that she’s a talented writer. It just doesn’t work for me. I found this book to be a little drawn out and I lost interest in it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some lovely moments within this story and some very quotable moments. I was extremely busy when I was reading it (so may not have invested as much in it as I wanted to) and I enjoy a faster paced story. I feel really bad because I know so many people love this book. However, we can’t love them all and the blogosphere would be very boring if we all agreed.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
3 Star Rating Clip Art

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – My Mother’s Wedding by Tessa Hadley from the collection Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Tracy Chevalier.

Published October 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s My Mother’s Wedding all about?:

My Mother’s Wedding follows our young female protagonist, Jane at her mother’s wedding and the life-altering choices that are made that day.

What did I think?:

I’ve had my beady little eye on this collection for the longest time and I’m delighted it’s finally time to enter it into my Short Stories Challenge and enjoy fiction from a number of celebrated authors including the author of this piece, Tessa Hadley as well as Sarah Hall, Evie Wyld, Susan Hill, Lionel Shriver and Audrey Niffenegger to name a few and as the ones I’ve mentioned are some of my favourite female voices, I knew I was in for a treat with this collection. Edited by Tracy Chevalier, the idea is that each of the authors has been given Jane Eyre’s most notorious line: “Reader, I Married Him,” and allowed to let their imaginations run wild. I thought this was a fantastic idea and was really looking forward to seeing how each writer would use that infamous statement to tell their own story whilst maintaining the spirit and essence of Jane Eyre and indeed, of Charlotte Bronte as an author herself.

Tessa Hadley, author of the short story, My Mother’s Wedding.

Our story begins as you may have guessed by the title, in the run up to a wedding, one of which our female protagonist Jane (or Janey as she is known) is not looking forward to. The wedding is her mother’s and she is not marrying Jane’s father or the father of Jane’s half-siblings but a much younger man called Patrick. The family live a carefree, bohemian existence in the Welsh countryside and are often looked down on by other members of the community for their open and nonchalant ways but all individuals in the family appear to be content with their lot. This is until the day of the wedding however, when after much merriment (and maybe a bit too much home made mead!), tensions begin to bubble to the surface, secrets are revealed and decisions are made that will affect the dynamics of the family forever.

The beautiful Welsh countryside, where our story is set.

This little story kind of sneaked up and surprised me a little bit and as I’m always delighted by the unexpected, this was a very welcome turn of events for me personally as a reader. At the beginning, it feels kind of cosy, happy and languid with plenty of beautiful descriptions of nature, the weather and the surrounding area although before long, we begin to sense that there may be undercurrents of anguish below the serenity on the outside. My favourite thing about this story though was the way in which Tessa Hadley used the line: “Reader, I Married Him,” as a very particular nod to Jane Eyre and her creator Bronte, whom at the time was admired as brave and independent for this utterance considering women’s position in society at the time. That is to say, Bronte didn’t fall back on “we married,” or “he married me,” but made a definitive statement that it was HER particular choice to marry not that of her eventual husband, Mr Rochester.

Without giving anything away, Hadley uses this idea to illustrate in My Mother’s Wedding the decisions that are made in the story without having to actually have her characters say the line at any time. The way everything unravelled, particularly by the end, felt different, felt interesting and was a novel take on such a celebrated literary quote in history.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Ringing Night by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.