Book Review – The Wilderness of Ruin

I am a self-professed true crime junkie. I drop everything when my TV is tuned to Investigation Discovery. Ann Rule and Harold Schechter are my superheroes. I am also a bit of a history geek; my undergrad degree is in the subject. When history and true crime intertwine in a single book, it is nerd heaven for this gal; and that’s the case with The Wilderness of Ruin by Roseanne Montillo.

The Wilderness of Ruin is a fascinating examination of the crimes and trial of Jesse Pomeroy, America’s youngest serial killer and the original bad seed. Pomeroy’s atrocious spree of violence took place in late 19th century Boston, a vulnerable town struggling to recover from a devastating fire. In 1872, at the tender age of twelve, Pomeroy abducted younger children for the purpose of torture. These acts of defilement resulted in a sixteen-month stint at the Lyman School for Boys. In 1874, mere months after his release, Jesse mutilated and murdered two children. Given his track record, it did not take Boston police long to pinpoint Pomeroy the culprit. The resulting trial sparked a national debate about mental health and capital punishment.

With sparkling prose and perspicuous description, Montillo has created a supremely readable piece of nonfiction. Montillo maintains the lurid elements of a typical true crime novel while expertly capturing the essence of Gilded Age America. She offers an in-depth view of the tumultuous era by punctuating Jesse Pomeroy’s tale with accounts from the likes of Boston fire chief, John Darnell; Herman Melville; and Oliver Wendell Holmes. The gruesomely detailed depictions of Pomeroy’s horrific activities are evidence of Montillo’s masterful research.

The Wilderness of Ruin will keep you engaged page after grisly page. It is a standout among historical true crime novels. I believe it should be required reading for all who loved Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

Originally posted on OverDrive Blogs.

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son Review

 

Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! wowed me (if you haven’t read it, do it now), so when I found out that her brother penned a collection of essays I had to pick it up. Kent Russell’s I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son is very different from Karen’s writing (she writes offbeat fiction, he writes literary nonfiction), but the siblings share a spectacular amount of talent. It doesn’t seem quite fair that one family contains two literary virtuosos.

 

In I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son, Kent invites readers on a hilarious and intimate exploration of self and society’s fringes. Russell shares frank vignettes of his familial relationships and childhood, parlaying them into observational portraits of the unorthodox people he encounters. He mingles with misunderstood Insane Clown Posse fans at the Gathering of the Juggalos. He spends an alcohol-fueled weekend with a self-immunizer, a man who conditions himself to survive poisonous snake bites by injecting himself with venom. He visits a retired (and possibly brain-damaged) hockey enforcer, takes in an Amish baseball game, enrolls in a course taught by a horror movie make-up artist, and maroons himself on a deserted island with a modern-day Robinson Crusoe.

 
Kent Russell is a robust voice in nonfiction. He is sure to become a favorite among fans of Hunter S. Thompson and David Foster Wallace. You can read more of his essays in The New Republic, Harper’s, GQ, n+1, The Believer, and Grantland.

Originally posted on OverDrive Blogs.

Book Review – I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Cody is heart-broken and stunned when her best friend Meg downs a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner. Sure they had grown apart since Meg left their small town to attend college, but wouldn’t she know if her best friend was depressed? When Meg’s family asks Cody to retrieve her belongings, she uses the trip as an opportunity to find closure but only ends up with more questions. What was Meg hiding in an encrypted file on her laptop? What secrets are Meg’s roommates keeping? And what role did mysterious and handsome Ben, the guy Meg had a short-lived fling with, play in her suicide? Cody is determined to find the answers to these questions and solve the mystery surrounding Meg’s death.

Gayle Forman has a knack for writing authentic characters and I Was Here highlights that ability even more than her past novels. Cody rang especially true to me as a grieving friend. She wasn’t perfect: she was moody, lashed out at those around her, and was consumed by guilt. These are trademark characteristics of a person who has suffered a devastating loss. I found myself becoming more and more absorbed in Cody’s emotions as the story moved along. I became so absorbed that I started ugly crying on my living room floor and scared my dog.

Forman also delves into Cody’s home life and her budding relationship with Ben (it wouldn’t be a Gayle Forman novel without a little amore). Many people will relate to Cody’s strained relationship with her mother and her feelings of being trapped in a small-town. So much of this novel was beautiful and real, especially the aspects about family and friendship; however, the romance between Cody and Ben came off as cliché at times. If you’re looking for a love story, try If I Stay instead.

Overall, I Was Here is a powerful and honest exploration of grief and self-discovery. It is definitely a worthwhile read, just make sure to keep a box of tissues handy. I Was Here is perfect for fans of John Green and Maureen Johnson.

Originally published on OverDrive BookBytes.

Book Review – Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh

Spademan, the quippy garbageman-turned-hit man, is back in this sequel to Adam Sternbergh’s Shovel ReadyNear Enemy returns to a future New York City that has been ravaged by terrorist attacks. Most residents fled after the attacks and the ones who stayed escape through the limnosphere (aka “the limn”), a virtual reality where people can live out their fantasies. Everyone is safe in the limn, or so they thought. Terrorists have discovered a way to kill people in the limn, a feat believed to be impossible. Now it’s up to Spademan to save the city and protect his make-shift family….

Read the rest of this review on OverDrive BookBytes.

90s Teen TV Star Biographies

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Confession: I am completely obsessed with the 90s. The fashions, the movies, the music, and especially the TV shows. In honor of my beloved 90s television, I present you with these wonderful 90s teen tv star bios.

Behind the Bell by Dustin Diamond (aka Samuel Powers aka Screech from Saved By the Bell)
Most shocking revelation: Dustin Diamond is a misogynistic ass. Not sure why I was shocked by this given his performance on Celebrity Fit Club.

Jason Priestley: A Memoir by Jason Priestley (aka Brandon Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210)
Most shocking revelation: Tori Spelling tried to hock his wedding invitation for $5 at a yard sale.

Just Between Us by Mario Lopez (aka A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell)
Most shocking revelation: Ol’ Albert Clifford lost his virginity at 12!

Melissa Explains it All by Melissa Joan Hart (aka Clarissa from Clarissa Explains it All)
Most shocking revelation: The amount of drugs that MJH did. Girl was trippin’.

Normally, This Would be Cause for Concern by Danielle Fishel (aka Topanga from Boy Meets World)
Most shocking revelation: I don’t yet, because I just checked this one out. However, I am still upset that she got to date Lance Bass and I didn’t. NOT FAIR!

BONUS (not a biography)

Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein
Most shocking revelation: The ingredients to all that green slime they dumped on people.

9 Books to Terrify You this Halloween

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In honor of the impending Halloween holiday, I’ve comprised a list of 9 books that truly terrified me. Enjoy!

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson – The most famous haunted house case may or may not be true, but it will still keep you hiding under the covers. I read this in the 7th grade and hid the book because it scared me so much. The next day, it was laying on my bed. My mom had cleaned my room, but I was still freaked out.

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix – In an attempt to catch a vandal, a group of employees camp out in a furniture store overnight. What they find is much more menacing. Be prepared for fright-induced insomnia.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson – This novel about a murderous sheriff will have you questioning what kind of sickness lies within everyone you know.

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf – A graphic novel about Jeffery Dahmer’s adolescence written by his high school friend. Dahmer’s transition from disturbed teen to serial killer is unnerving, as is the look into his depressing homelife.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin – The horror classic about a woman impregnated with the Antichrist will make your blood curdle.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris – If you can read this book without getting scared, then you are not human.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule & Unholy Messenger by Stephen Singular – Yes, more true crime. Reality is more horrifying than fiction. These books are about Ted Bundy and BTK – two of the most gruesome serial killers ever. After reading these, I was constantly checking the locks on my door and windows.

The Telltale Lilac Bush by Ruth Ann Musick – This is a compilation of West Virginia ghost stories. Required reading for any kid who grew up in the state (like me). I recommend starting with “The Little Rag Doll” or “Big John’s Ghost”.

So what is the most terrifying book you’ve ever read?