The Devil in the White City – A Review

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a macabre fascination with serial killers, especially ones from the past. I went through a phase of reading anything and everything I could about Jack the Ripper and still find the whole subject surrounding, probably the most infamous murderer of all time, fascinating.

TDITWC

So when I stumbled across the name H.H.Holmes and did some digging I was super intrigued. A charismatic doctor who moved to Chicago and built a hotel as a way to lure women to him and kill them. I managed to pick up the copy of this book fairly cheap (I got it second hand off Amazon) The book flits between the story of Daniel Burnham (a man given the task to oversee the building of the World’s Fair Exposition in Chicago) and H.H.Holmes a charming and smooth talking doctor with amazing powers of manipulation and someone who was also incredibly dangerous and sick.

As I went to Chicago last year, I actually enjoyed reading about the building of the fair and learning more about it’s history, some of the most well known things came about there (Shredded Wheat and the Ferris Wheel to name a couple) When it got to the chapters talking about the crimes Holmes executed in his strangely built hotel, it made the hairs on my arm stand on end. The ease with which he would like to neighbours and family members asking about their missing daughters (who he had murdered and disposed of) makes for some unsettling reading.

However as the book progressed, I couldn’t help but think that I would have liked to have heard more about the crimes in depth, more about Holmes’ time incarcerated as well as more about his victims. Whilst the parts of the book following Daniel Burnham and the World’s Fair appealed to the history buff in me (and the lover of Chicago) I felt that it took away from the whom the book was actually about, America’s First Serial Killer.
That being said, Erik Larson wrote it in a way that the information wasn’t too heavy and you can tell he’s really done his research and has a true passion for the subject, and that came across in his writing. I got through it fairly quickly, but I would have liked the ending to have been as detailed as the rest of the book.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

Happy reading.

G.
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Convenience Store Woman – A Review

I kept noticing this book on one of my regular perusals of the local bookshop and kept picking it up but was never sure. However when I saw a fellow bookworm Hannah Simpson singing its praises on her Instagram page I thought I’d give it a whirl and bought a copy.

CSW

A few pages in and I loved the style of writing of Sayaka Murata. The book centres on Keiko Furukura a 36 year old woman who, despite her friends and family protestations, has worked in a Convenience Store part time for 18 years. There are moments where the author tells a story of something odd Keiko said or did as a child that give her a dark comedic edge. As the book progressed I began to feel somewhat uncomfortable though, I neither found it “hilarious” or “irresistibly quirky” as two the reviews on the cover exclaim.

Perhaps I’m reading far too much into it, or perhaps I have misinterpreted it. I feel that Keiko could be autistic, I haven’t looked into this but I found her personality came across displaying traits of this. And for that reason it made me uncomfortable that she was being depicted as a comedy figure. Granted there are some things she says in a very blunt and matter of fact way, but it didn’t sit well with me.

On the flipside I did enjoy the way Keiko was happy in her job and felt at peace. Almost as though the store was living organism which she could read and understand and in turn it did the same for her and allowed her a place to be “normal”.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are if you’ve read this, as perhaps I’ve missed something or completely misconstrued it. All in all, a quick and easy read.

Star Rating out of 5: 3

Happy reading.

G.
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Time and Distance

Taking a rare step back from books for a moment and reflecting on the past year or so, this is going to be quite a personal post. My life has changed so much in the past few years, I was married and living in a lovely house. Things happened and my marriage broke down, I moved back home with my mum. I got into relationships with people I thought cared about me and loved me (and I honestly thought I loved them) but now I’ve had time and distance I know that I was naïve. I was blind to their tricks and manipulation and cheating because I so desperately wanted someone to just love me for me. But I didn’t love them either; I just wanted to feel that I did in order to feel something other than shitty.

Fast forward to latter end of last year and I was beginning to get my confidence back, I went to Chicago with one of my best friends and came back full of ideas, energy and the desire to start making the changes and steps in my life I had put off for so long. And then my mum passed away suddenly. It’s not even been a year since she left us and I still hurt more than people know or realise, or even show. I still have nights where I see things that happened that night so clearly in my head that it hurts to breathe and I get launched into an existential panic about changing the outcome. I still blame myself for not going downstairs 5 or 10 minutes sooner, and although my brother tells me I shouldn’t think like that, it’s something I will carry with me forever. Having to do CPR on your own mum isn’t something you forget and I never will. I’m hoping that sometime in the near future I will be in a position where I feel ready to get counselling and speak to a professional about how I feel but at the moment I feel that I would unravel and not know how to put myself back together. So I manage by way of anti-depressants, making to do lists and pre-occupying myself with hobbies.

The past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about various things. But mostly about how selfish I have been. I got into a relationship with someone I thought was “amazing” and rushed into something I wasn’t ready for, so when they ended it abruptly because they couldn’t deal with my anxiety I was shocked and upset but really I shouldn’t have been and I should have payed attention to all the red flags about their own behaviour. In hindsight they were nothing special and definitely not someone I should have wasted so much time pining over. They didn’t deserve me at all, I didn’t see or realise my own worth but I do now. I distanced myself from friends and family and existed in a little bubble and did some really stupid things, things that hurt those close to me and made them worry unnecessarily. Things I’m not proud of and for that I can only apologise.

I travelled to Amsterdam for 4 days on a solo trip and did some much needed soul searching and it was good for me. Not long after I returned I started a new job (which I absolutely love and feel so lucky to have) and got back in touch with someone who has always been in the background of my life. Someone I met 14 years ago at Monday night Ritz, when he spilt a pint on me.

That night all those years ago, I looked in his eyes and laughed and we spent the whole night sitting on the stairs (him ditching his friends, me ditching my bro and our friends) just talking to one another. We dated a little bit but the timing was bad, but we stayed in touch. Years later we once again got re-acquainted and dated again, but it wasn’t too long after my dad had passed away, I wasn’t in the best of places and neither was he. But he was someone I always kept on Facebook, always thought about. Last year I posted something on Facebook and he commented on it, and we got chatting again. I got such a thrill and warmth from talking to him. I saw he was in a relationship and eased off as I didn’t want to make his girlfriend uncomfortable but still thought about him.

Anyway, on the first day in my new job, we got talking again. We didn’t stop. He phoned me and it wasn’t uncomfortable, it just felt right. There were no awkward silences or phatic conversation. Fast forward a bit and we start dating and it was going well, like really well. And now, almost 2 months since we made it “Facebook official” I couldn’t imagine being without him. And in fact, I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner. I honestly believe he was the one that got away but thankfully we found each other again. He’s not like anyone else. I can truly be myself with him, he doesn’t judge me, get angry at me for being upset about things or make me feel like a “head case” or call me one because I have anxiety and depression. He makes me laugh so much, he has one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever known and above all I trust him 100%. I don’t feel like I have to look over my shoulder, or worry about another girl or anything like that because he gives me no reason to. No matter whether we’re together or apart, he makes me feel like I’m the only person in the room. For some reason, he loves me for who I am my faults and all. And I can honestly say that I love him too and on some level I think I always have. Over the years whenever I’ve heard certain songs, they’ve made me think of him and I’ve smiled. And now it’s so nice to lie in his arms and listen to those songs and know that they made him think of me too.

Me and KF

Being with him makes me want to be a better person and for the first time in a long time, I actually feel like I have a future to look forward to. When my mum died I was in pieces and didn’t know how I’d get through each day. Part of me feels like she brought him to me, a little cheesy but I honestly believe it to be true. Since I’ve been with him, I’ve been taking steps to sort things out in my life. My divorce is underway, the house we shared is on the market and it’s all remained amicable, which I’m glad about. I wish no bad to my ex and hope he finds happiness one day, but we both want to get it sorted quickly so we can start our new lives.

Other little changes mean I’ve been looking at my relationships; I’ve not made time for some people where I should have done and consequently have had my head up my own arse thinking my shit is the worse. When that’s not true at all, other people have been going through stuff and I should have been there to support them or check in and I didn’t or haven’t. But that’s going to change. I am trying to make amends with people and patch up what I can. I’m trying to be kinder to others and to myself.

I’m trying to become vegetarian because I hate seeing what’s happening to the planet and I think of my beautiful niece and nephew and don’t want their generation to suffer. I’m focusing on my career and pushing for skills and experience that I hope will make me better at what I do. I’m booking onto exercise classes that I enjoy (burlesque, aerial hoop and pole fitness) and trying to worry less about my shape and how I look and more about how the classes make me feel. I’m taking up a bullet journal to help with my anxiety and have booked a holiday for February next year because I want to see the world with the person I love and make memories.

I know it’s not going to be easy and that everything won’t happen overnight but I’m trying to be better, more understanding and more loving. I don’t want negativity or bitterness or anger to be part of me or my life. I’m trying to let that go and with Kyle, I feel like that’s possible. Life is far too short and precious to waste. So here’s to a healthy life, with good memories made with amazing people and above all, a life filled with love.

G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Ian McMillan

The next bookworm you’re about to meet is also the first male bookworm who has appeared in my “Meet the Bookworm” feature. There are books and authors on here that I’ve never heard of, which is great for me and you lovely people reading as it means more to add to your list. Please welcome Ian McMillan of Coatbridge, Scotland to More Books than Shoes.

Ian McMillanWhat age did you get into reading? I was fairly young when I got into reading. I can’t remember what age I was but I’m pretty sure it was before I started at school; so maybe about 4.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why?  As a youngster, I loved Roald Dahl, so it was probably The Witches. It was just such a dark, bittersweet and sometimes bizarre story that doesn’t skimp on the “gory” details. Dahl’s books were always quite subversive, and even at a young age I had a strange twisted sense of humour. It definitely helped shaped my future tastes. 

Do you have a favourite genre? I read many different genres so picking a favourite is difficult. It’s more about story and themes rather than genre for me. Looking at my books on the bookcase, I have lots of biographies, classics, etc, but there seems to be mostly JG Ballard, Hubert Selby Jr, Chuck Palahniuk, Camus, Kafka, Philip K Dick, Hunter S Thompson, et al, so I seem to lean more towards transgressive fiction. 

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I seem to be drawn to characters that are struggling to make sense of the world around them, or that feel completely out of place even within themselves. Palahniuk’s protagonists I can relate to: that feeling of looking at the people around you and thinking “I don’t understand any of these folk”.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? The Bank Robber Diaries by Danny King. Really badly written and full of truly detestable characters that the author obviously thinks are cool and hilarious. I used to always pride myself that I would always finish a book, no matter if it was good or bad. This book changed that. 

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? I think I’d have to say The Princess Bride. I may be influenced by nostalgia with this answer as it’s been a favourite of mine since I was a child but it is such a joyful film that totally reflects the book in every way (probably because William Goldman wrote both). Fight Club is also up there as it actually improves on the book. 

What was the last book you read? Lost Highways: An Illustrated History of Road Movies by Jack Sargeant and Stephanie Watson. The road movie is one of my favourite subgenres in film – the notion of the road as a metaphor for a personal as well as physical journey – and this book covers all the different types of road movie in relation to nationality, historical setting, political backdrop, etc.

What are you currently reading? Peckinpah: A Portrait In Montage by Garner Simmons. I love a biography and Sam Peckinpah is one of my favourite directors. As you may have noticed, I read a lot of film-related stuff.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. A dark, surreal tragedy about a family who run a circus freak show and who resort to desperate measures to keep the business going when popularity starts to wane, told from the point of view of the daughter who is a hunch-backed albino dwarf. It is both a very funny and very sad read.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? No idea. Probably “Winging It”. That’s all we really seem to do in life, isn’t it? Haha.

Thanks to Ian, and all the other lovely people who have taken part so far. If you’d like to be part of the “Meet the Bookworm” feature, please comment below.

Happy reading.

G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Brittiny Charee

The third wonderful contributor to my “Meet the Bookworm” feature is Brittiny Charee from Florida, USA. For as long as I’ve known Brittiny she has always been an avid reader and is also a blogger and a writer in her spare time. In fact, we have written some fan fiction together in the past and it was a great honour.  You can check out Brittiny’s blog here. There are some books on here, I’ll be sure to check out, and hopefully you will too.

Brittiny Charee

What age did you get into reading? I’d say 5 or 6.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? But No Elephants by Jerry Smath. I think because it was a favourite to read with my grandmother.

Do you have a favourite genre? Not really.

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I tend to find one in almost every book I read.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I can’t recall any off the top of my head. Likely because it was bad I voided it from my memory.

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? Jaws. They kept a good chunk of the book, and while there was a major character changed, it didn’t take anything from the story. I felt it was really well done.

What was the last book you read? The last book I actually finished was H.I.V.E. (The Higher Institute of Villainous Education)

What are you currently reading? Big Girl, As Old as Time, Girl in Pieces and Ninth Street Women.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Wicked. It can touch on so many different issues, and I think we can all relate to Elphaba now and then.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Roller-coaster of Life.

If you would like be a contributor for the “Meet the Bookworm” feature then please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.
G.

The Sleepwalker – A Review

The Sleepwalker is the third in the Aidan Waits series of books by Joseph Knox. You may have seen that I have posted about Joseph Knox and his incredibly captivating protagonist in previous posts, a character who has so much hidden in his past but we know very little about. He makes you want to go back for more.

The Sleepwalker

And this book is no exception.  I honestly have to say that the way the book starts, very much sets the whole tone for the rest of the book. There’s a sense of tension building throughout, a feeling that whilst reading, settles in the stomach and makes you on edge about what is to come. Aidan is once again catapulted into an investigation that is complex and has connections to some old familiar faces.  The relationship between Aidan and his new partner, Naomi Black, could have easily have fallen flat but somehow Joseph manages to introduce enough intrigue and tension that makes the dynamic between the two believable. In this book we find Aidan very much looking over his shoulder at enemies from his past, work colleagues, suspects and his new partner.

It’s hard to talk about the plot line of this book without giving away too much but it is much grittier than Knox’s previous work, and dare I say, his best one yet. Once again we see softer aspects to the otherwise mysterious Waits and the way Knox highlights the issue of the Spice epidemic in Manchester and its impact upon homeless people and those incarcerated is particularly hard to read, but incredibly important. It is the moments that take place within Strangeways and an inmate there that made me particularly emotional.  Once again Joseph has penned a masterpiece in Crime Fiction/Crime Noir.  Giving us plenty of drama, intrigue, twists and turns and also moments that will make you wince. This book is not for the faint hearted and the best thing is how he ends it. There’s no way of knowing what will come next, and that is why you should read it.

A rip roaring, page turner and one I highly recommend to those who love a good detective novel, trust me, there are things you will not see coming and they will leave you reeling.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have read it, so comment below. Happy reading!

G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Elika Jacobs

Next up in my ‘Meet the Bookworm’ feature we have Elika Jacobs from Manchester, UK. Elika is a fellow Leo, and for as long as I can remember she’s always been into horror so her answers do not surprise me. There are some books on here, that I’ve never heard of or read, so without further ado, please welcome Elika and her creepy book vibes.

Elika JacobsWhat age did you get into reading? I would say I was around eight years old when I fell in love with reading. I was obsessed with R.L Stine’s Goosebumps books growing up.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? I think the first book that struck a chord with me, I was 14 years old (and it’s nothing profound in anyway) but it would have to be when I read the first book of the trilogy ‘The Rats’ by James Herbert. Simply because it freaked me out! My imagination went into overdrive with that book. The part that has always stayed with me was this character was left absolutely terrified in his basement in pitch black listening to these blood thirsty rats the size of small dogs, scratching and getting closer and closer to him, until he can feel them tearing at his skin and he is eaten alive in complete and utter darkness. I read that section of the book in bed turned my light off, got back into bed, I moved my leg and felt something scratch me! I jumped out of bed screaming thinking there was a fucking rat from the book in my bed. Nope just my spring sticking out of my mattress!

Do you have a favourite genre? I don’t have a favourite but similar. I love thrillers, horror, true crime etc

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to?  I think I resonate with a few characters from books I have read. However, I could see a little of myself in the sisters from ‘The secret life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I don’t really remember the book that I would class as the worst one I have read. It came free with a magazine and wasn’t really up my street. I just remember not finishing it.

What’s  your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? That is a hard one as there is so many that you don’t even realise! But I would have to say ‘The secret life of bees’ I have recently re-read it and it is a phenomenal book. The director and cast did a sensational job bringing it to life.

What was the last book you read? The last book I read was a biography of the former slave who became well-known as an abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights called ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ by Sojourner Truth.

What are you currently reading? The current book I am reading is called ‘Need you dead’ by Peter James.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Oh, wow that is a tough one, but I should’ve known it was coming! I think I’m going to give a cop out answer and say ANY of James Herbert’s books. If you’re into your horrors, thrillers, dark fantasy, etc he is the author for you! I’ve spoken about him that much recently that I think I’m going to have to take a trip down memory lane and re-read one of his books.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Lemony Snicket stole my autobiography name (laughs) I think I would call it ‘My life! Fuck it, it is what it is’

If you would like be a contributor for the “Meet the Bookworm” feature then please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.
G.
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