Category Archives: Crime

Too many pies, not enough fingers…

Well, I went on holiday…and came back. As you do. I was a veritable reading champion and managed to make my way through no less than four books. Hurrah! I read the aforementioned In The Woods by Tana French, I Have Waited and You Have Come by Martine McDonagh; I also read The Gunslinger (Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King, and The Case of Mary Bell: a Portrait of a Child Who Murdered by Gitta Sereny. I was EXTREMELY naughty and read The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule BEFORE I went away. Self control=zilch. My holiday reads ran the gamut from fantasy, crime, post-apocalyptia (is that even a word..?), and true crime (though Sereny’s analysis of the Mary Bell case is far from sensational. It’s more a sensitive deconstruction of the nature of ‘evil’; an approach Sereny mastered in her biography of Albert Speer whom she met on many occasions).

Aside from reading, I’ve been pursing an altogether different past-time…indoor gardening! That’s right!

My little kitchen garden

My little kitchen garden

Seemingly unstoppable mint cutting...

Seemingly unstoppable mint cutting…

I planted a garlic clove and this is the result after a week

I planted a garlic clove and this is the result after a week

Scooping the guts out of aloe vera leaves...

Scooping the guts out of aloe vera leaves…

I find it all very relaxing. The results also speak for themselves. I am currently growing garlic (possible even in erratic UK climate…), basil, parsley, mint and lettuce. I also just planted some coriander seeds. Jamie Oliver I ain’t, but it’s fun and really easy. I am currently drinking a mint tea of my own making. I don’t even like mint tea but I have so much of the stuff I have to do something with it…I also made a face mask from some of my wilting aloe leaves. Even a fool of Took like me can manage to keep some plants alive. I am quite proud…

Other news:

-I have just finished a two-week unpaid work placement scheme in the Richard Burton Archive on the Swansea University campus. It was a fantastic introduction into the world of archives, and my placement partner and I produced some pieces of writing on our experience here and here. We also produced a web guide on a church in Swansea and how WW1 affected the lives of its congregation; information uncovered from primary sources such as logbooks.

-I am currently editing my next review for LSE Review of Books, The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters: Gender, Secrecy, and Fraternity in Italian Masonic Lodges by Lilith Mahmud. It should be available for you to read online from the 19th of this month (June).

S’about it for now.

I’m currently reading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, and Mr Mercedes by everyone’s favourite literary uncle, Stephen King.

I’m currently listening to The Handsome Family (thanks True Detective!), the Night Vale podcast (how I never discovered this before is a mystery to me…).

 

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Holidays are coming!

I took a proverbial holiday from my blog for a good few months and now, I am actually going on a real-life holiday, to Tenerife! Woohoo!

Despite still feeling rather resentful about having to pay £70 for ONE hold bag with Ryanair, I’ve decided to concentrate on my reading list instead, as we all know that choosing the right holiday reads is an essential part of any trip.

Because I have recently become addicted to reading true-crime books (I know, I know…), my first holiday read is The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule; a friend of Ted Bundy, who was entirely unaware that he was, in fact, a killer of women.

My second holiday read is In The Woods by Tana French. I’ve heard a lot of good reviews so I am excited to get stuck into this one.

My final holiday pick is I Have Waited, And You Have Come by Martine McDonagh, which tells the story of Rachel, who meets a mysterious stranger in a post-apocalyptic world…can’t wait!

My poolside reading runs the gamut from true-crime to post-apocalyptic fiction but not being the Chick Lit type (what a horrific ‘genre’ title…), I felt I needed some reads I could really sink my teeth into. I am, quite literally, going to read my face off.

If I have enough cash, and can justify buying another book, then Tracks by Robyn Davidson will make the cut. I saw the trailer for the film in the cinema the other night and I literally swooned with excitement (having never heard of Davidson’s real-life trip before) and felt ludicrously inspired to go on my own intrepid journey right there and then (which was ridiculous considering that I had work in the morning, and was in fact, stuck in a cinema…). There’s always the future, right?

I am currently in the middle of reading and reviewing Wounding by Heidi James and I am about half-way through, at the moment. Watch this space for the review!

 

 

Recent Reads

I haven’t written anything for a while, eh? Man, I’ve been busy.

I’ve not really been feeling much enthusiasm in regards to reading or indeed, writing, as my blog silence would indicate; I guess I just hadn’t been feeling it, y’know?

But as it was my birthday last week, I treated myself to some choice, and not to mention controversial, titles…

Tampa by Alissa Nutting:

You may or may not have heard about Tampa. The Daily Mail recently labelled it ‘THE SICKEST BOOK OF THE SUMMER’…so naturally, I had to see what the fuss is about. 17846944

Celeste is a beautiful, rich and affluent 26 year old teacher. She is married to an all-American boy, Ford, who is a police officer. Celeste has one all-consuming desire in her life; that is, to have sex with 14 year old boys. She is soon revealed to be obsessive, manipulative and calculating and soon begins a relationship with a pupil, Jack, at her new school, with, arguably. devastating consequences.

Basically, the controversy surrounding Tampa has been its exploration of the desires and experiences of a female paedophile (albeit, a fictional one, but based loosely on the real-life story of Debra Lafave). That’s not to say that the author, Alissa Nutting, condones or endorses the actions of her character. Nutting has been vocal in the press about the double standards that exist in regards to the treatment of male and female sex offenders; Lafave was described as being too pretty to go to jail by her lawyer, despite being a convicted child abuser.

I found the description of the sexual acts between Celeste and Jack to be nauseatingly over-descriptive. Though, as a reader, we are privy to Celeste’s innermost fantasies, so it is expected that as an audience we see her inner psyche laid bare, as it were. And with sociopathic detail, Celeste does not disappoint.

Overall, I found it an interesting and complex read. I would recommend it, if you can stomach it.

The Never List by Koethi Zan:

I was pretty excited about this one; I’d heard from a variety of sources that it was excellent and had a compelling, unexpected twist. I love twists, me… 16158525

Sarah and Jessica are best friends. After surviving a car crash in their teens that kills Jessica’s mum, they become even closer. Arguably psychologically scarred, they begin compiling a list, The Never List, of things they should avoid if they don’t want to die. Things like, never go anywhere alone after dark, and…never get into a strange car.

But lo, they do get into a strange car and so their nightmare begins. Locked up and tortured in a cellar for five years, for seemingly no apparent reason, their nightmare has just begun…

…unfortunately, the reality was that I was kinda disappointed, and being some kind of spoiler ninja, I guessed the twist halfway through the book. Sigh.

It’s all a bit of a mash-up of cults, survivor’s guilt, S&M bars, ice queen academics, philosophy and gung-ho action.

I appreciate what it tried to do, but often, strands of themes just ended up nowhere and for me, this was extremely unsatisfying.

The End of Alice by A.M Homes:

The End of Alice tears the tissue thin line between the evil and the everyday. It details the correspondence between two paedophiles; one, a middle-aged male (and our narrator), is incarcerated in an institution, and the other, a 19 year old girl, is his admirer and seeks advice on seducing a 12 year old neighbourhood boy. {72903DF8-EEC8-4EE8-A7A3-78C65B46AB64}Img100

Slowly, through this correspondence, the narrator’s true nature reveals itself.

Our narrator is an unreliable one; the text flits back and forth between the past, present and what the narrator imagines is happening in the girls life. He bemoans the lack of sophistication in her letters (using too many exclamation marks, for one) whilst celebrating his own with titillatingly tongue-twisting tirades and sharp sibilance.

The narrator uses the girl’s letters as an excuse to revisit some of the motivations behind his own crimes, and specifically, those committed against a girl named Alice.

Hiding behind the thin veneer of civilisation is truly a psychopath. A complicated, manipulative and obsessive psychopath.

I thought The End of Alice was excellent, complex and thought-provoking. Be warned though, there are some pretty nasty prison rape scenes and vivid descriptions of abuse.

Apparently, when it came out, libraries in the US and the NSPCC (Nat. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Children) in the UK tried to ban it. Double sigh.

I don’t believe in banning books, myself. I believe in reading them and making up my own mind. I hope you will too.

March Round-Up!

1. Everybody Talks About the Weather…We Don’t: The Writings of Ulrike Meinhof:

A fascinating insight into the life of Ulrike Meinhof; from her humble beginnings as a Christian, pipe-smoking pacifist to militant, extreme left-wing terrorist.

Meinhof started her career as a journalist for left-wing German magazine konkret with her then husband Klaus Rainer Röhl, living in Hamburg with her twin daughters, mingling with the intellectual set of the time.

Ten years later, she had abandoned her bourgeoisie existence, her family, and was a leading figure in the RAF (Rote Armee Faktion, or the Baader-Meinhof Gang) alongside Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin; notorious for their acts of politically motivated violence. 220px-Ulrike_Meinhof_als_junge_Journalistin_(retuschiert)

The actions of the RAF had arguably evolved from the hotbed of student activity that had existed in West Germany in the late 1960’s. Student protests against the visit of the Shah of Iran to West Germany had resulted in the death of student Benno Ohnesorg at the hands of a police officer (later found out to have been a Stasi agent), leading student figure Rudi Duschke was shot in the head by anti-communist Josef Bachmann, and the appointment of Kurt Georg Kiesinger (a former Nazi party member) as chancellor of West Germany triggered widespread protests and a re-examination of the collective psyche of the German people post WW2.

The RAF believed that actions spoke louder than words, but was their integral message lost in the inevitable sensationalist press coverage that followed their activities? The collection of Meinhof’s work gives us an insight into not only her personal development from journalist to terrorist, but also an insight into the development and motivation of the movement itself through her articles, which invariably fell apart  as a result of infighting and personal clashes.

Altogether an interesting examination into one of the most turbulent periods in modern European history.

 

2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:

On the morning of Amy and Nick Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy inexplicably goes missing. Nick is the prime suspect in the eyes of the world, some of the things he says and does in the aftermath of Amy’s disappearance betray a distinct lack of concern, or rather, indifference. The discovery of Amy’s diary further damages Nick’s reputation as her detailed entries reveal she was afraid of him…

…but all is not as it seems. 8442457

A complex dissection of the minutiae of marriage. How well do we really know our partners? Will our seemingly inconsequential actions today have terrible repercussions in the future?

Definitely a page turner for me.

 

3. The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid:

Nobody writes serial killers like Val and the second book in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series is no different. A razor sharp dissection of celebrity life and what horrors lie beneath the thin veneer of fame.

Jacko Vance, celebrity, chat-show host, dedicated and tireless charity volunteer and former Olympic hopeful, is the prime suspect in the murders of young teenage girls.

For anyone reading who isn’t familiar with UK news, the parallels between the fictional Jacko Vance and the very real (and very dead) Jimmy Savile are not accidental. Val McDermid interviewed Jimmy Savile as a young journalist in 1977 and was deeply unnerved by the experience.

Hiding in plain sight, Jimmy Savile was able to abuse vulnerable young people. The NSPCC and Metropolitan Police state that they have received complaints from over 450 victims, making him one of the most prolific sex offenders in UK history. {6E09B9D6-3B15-49E9-8562-B200CA1E8ABD}Img100

Using her experiences interviewing Savile, McDermid then created Jacko Vance, who hiding  in plain sight, rapes and murders young women. Whilst not all similarities are exact (as far as we are aware, Savile did not murder any of his victims) Wire in the Blood never-the-less leads us into a world where men can, and do, get away with murder.

Whilst McDermid has been criticised in the past for the violence enacted against women in her books, I think it’s very important to remember that acts of terrible violence ARE enacted on women, every day, all over the world; it is an inescapable truth in many women’s lives. I think fiction can work to draw attention to issues such as violence against women.

Val McDermid talks about this here.

Women’s Aid have some statistics that you may find interesting.

 

 

 

World Book Night 2013

In all the excitement of my daily life (…) I completely forgot to mention the fact that I have been chosen as a giver for WBN13!

I will be giving out 20 copies of The Reader by German author Bernhard Schlink.

I read a bit of The Reader while I was at university studying German and Politics, but in German. I am very excited to get a chance to read it again (in English, of course) and share my love of reading with all that will take a copy off my hands. 413094_10151539805755203_1290295507_o

I was also a giver for WBN12; I gave out copies of Misery by Stephen King, which went down very well.

I did actually feel that this years short-list was a bit disappointing compared to 2012; but it depends on your tastes, of course. I personally would have liked to have seen more horror/crime on the list. I often feel like horror gets marginalised in these kinda things. I think ‘Interview with the Vampire’ by Anne Rice would have been a good addition, or ‘Different Seasons’ by Stephen King. They are both excellent introductions to the genre, in my humble opinion.

The fact that members of the public can apply and essentially get books for free to distribute amongst their friends and families (some who may not be big readers or can’t afford to buy many themselves) is a great thing and should be celebrated accordingly.

Long live World Book Night!