I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
February 1, 2019
I always get off to a slow reading start in January — I think it’s because I generally devote lots of time to reading in December, when everything shuts down for the holidays and the kids have time off and it just feels like the perfect time to curl up with a good book. By the time January rolls around, I’m ready to focus on work projects and my plans for the new year and reading goes on the back burner for a month or two.
I read/listened to three of the books listed in this post at the end of December. In January, I read just two books and listened to two audiobooks. I also watched a whole lot of Real Housewives of Atlanta, which has to be the most scandalously satisfying Hulu rabbit hole ever — It may have seriously lowered my reading count for the month, but RHOA sparks joy for me right now, okay? Deal.
Wait. Where were we? Oh yes. Here are my thoughts on my latest reads…
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara (3/5 stars)
This was an interesting and unsettling read about the Golden State Killer, a man who committed 13 murders and dozens more rapes in California during the late 70s and early 80s. The book was written by Michelle McNamara, wife of comedian Patton Oswalt and an enthusiastic and relentless armchair detective and true crime blogger. She was so dedicated to finding this killer that veteran investigators on the case began to consider her one of them — In fact, the investigator who ended up finding the Golden State Killer earlier this year is the one who worked most closely with Michelle. Unfortunately, Michelle died unexpectedly before the killer was found or the book was published.
Honestly, the story behind the book is probably better than the book itself. The book contains Michelle’s writing and audio transcripts and because of her untimely death, a team of people worked together to develop everything into a cohesive narrative. Because of this, it felt very disjointed to me. However, I do love the idea of a mom taking interest in a case and becoming a key reason why a killer is finally found, decades later. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is worth reading so that you can follow the continuing story of the Golden State Killer today, now that he’s finally being brought to justice.
Shrill, Lindy West (4/5 stars)
I really enjoyed the audiobook version of this book, and I liked Lindy West’s writing style so much that I actually ordered a hardback copy — something I almost never do since I’ve already got more books than I can handle! Interestingly, I wasn’t always in agreement with West and at times, it felt like she was hitting the same note over and over and over again — but she got me thinking and that’s exactly what made Shrill a great read.
Lindy West’s perception of society is very much shaped by the size of her body, and the reactions she has gotten because of it. It is also very much shaped by the many haters and critics she’s attracted on the Internet with her outspoken posts for sites like Jezebel. She is smart and funny and attractive (her wedding pictures are all over the Internet and she looks AMAZING), but it’s clear she struggles with self image as a result of the negative feedback she’s endured over the years based on her physical appearance and her writing.
Shrill is an important read because West tackles topics like fat shaming, rape jokes, and abortion in a smart and even funny way that will get your attention and maybe even change your mind. There were some holes in West’s arguments, though — At some points she writes about how much she loves her body. At others, she talks about how miserable and uncomfortable it is to be in her body. Also, to hear West tell it, you’d think people are pointing and whispering at her wherever she goes. With more than 2 out of 3 of American adults now classified as overweight or obese, I suspect fewer people around her are thinking/caring about West’s weight than she believes — but I can see how she’d be extra sensitive about it since she’s so often writing and thinking and reading negative comments about her size on the Internet.
West also spends a lot of time addressing her haters and writing about how Internet trolls make her feel. I know what she’s talking about — I’ve had more than my share of trolls as well over the years, and they’ve said some pretty appalling things. It is, unfortunately, the downside of writing on the Internet. I’m absolutely certain, though, that her supporters far outweigh her detractors, and I wish she could recognize that the trolls, overall, form a very small (albeit vocal and annoying) percentage of her readership. Reading Shrill, you sense that she’s preoccupied with the haters and I can tell you from experience that that’s no way to live.
These may sound like criticisms, but they actually added to my enjoyment of the book — It’s so easy to come off as preachy and perfect in a book like this one and instead, Lindy West clearly realizes she’s very much human, and just as flawed as the rest of us. That makes me more likely to listen to what she has to say. I recommend this book to everyone, really — Her perspective is an important one. But I especially recommend it to those of you who love smart, sharp, witty writers and to fans of The Daily Show and This American Life… and the audiobook version is top notch.
Burial Rites, Hannah Kent (4/5 stars)
Burial Rites is impressive on two levels. Hannah Kent spent countless hours researching the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed for a crime in Iceland in 1829. She used information from interviews and translated many documents from the period in order to weave together this fictional account of what happened. The time she spent researching definitely makes the book fascinating from a historical perspective. I doubt many readers are well-versed in the customs and traditions of 19th century Icelanders, so for most readers, Burial Rites will immerse you in an entirely new world.
Beyond the research, Hannah Kent is simply a fantastic writer. Her words make you feel the chill of Iceland’s stark landscape and stifle a cough while reading about the various respiratory ailments villagers suffered thanks to homes constructed with peat and moss. You feel the emotions of the characters not through major scenes filled with drama and angst, but instead through many small, seemingly innocuous moments in their lives.
Burial Rites is no page-turner; it’s a slow burn as we get to know the characters moment by moment, unravel the mystery of what really happened to Agnes, and try to decide whether she’s truly guilty of the crime with which she’s been charged. I enjoyed the read and look very forward to seeing what Hannah Kent writes in the future.
(Bonus points for this book because I FOUND IT AT THE DOLLAR TREE. 😂)
The One, John Marrs (4/5 stars)
If you could submit a DNA sample and be genetically matched with your soulmate, would you do it? That’s the premise behind The One, and it makes for a solid, fast-paced thriller. At first, DNA-matched couples seem like the perfect antidote to our society’s rampant divorces and broken relationships, but ultimately, it may be causing more problems than it’s solving.
I listened to the audiobook version of this novel and was glad it had several narrators — With its multiple storylines, things could easily have gotten confusing. I think The One would be just as good in book form, and I’m looking forward now to watching the series on Netflix, too!
Recommended for anyone who loved Dark Matter.
Most Talkative, Andy Cohen (3/5 stars)
This is a better-than-average celebrity memoir that works particularly well as an audiobook. Andy Cohen feels like your hilariously bitchy friend telling all the funniest stories of his life and early career as a producer at CBS morning news. If you enjoy behind-the-scenes dish about network news and Hollywood celebrities, you’ll like this memoir. You’ll also fall in love with Andy’s warm and funny parents, who to this day are at the epicenter of his life.
I’m giving it three stars for purely personal reasons. First, the book focused more on CBS news than I would have liked. I had a long career in TV news and his ‘fascinating’ anecdotes all sounded pretty ordinary to me — I fully realize that this is my own personal bias. Second, if you’re hoping for a whole lot of stories about the Real Housewives (I’m right in the midst of binge-watching RHOA and that’s a big reason why I chose this as my latest audiobook), you’re going to be disappointed. They don’t really come into the picture until the last 50 or so pages of the book. And there’s not a ton of dish, which makes sense because he’s still embroiled in that hot mess. Once the series finally runs its course, I can only imagine the amount of dirt he’s going to share with the world.
All in all, Andy Cohen fans are pretty much guaranteed to love this book. Real Housewives fans will probably like it. Right wing Conservatives, Southern Baptists, Duck Dynasty fans? AVOID THIS BOOK AT ALL COSTS.
The One-in-a-Million Boy, Monica Wood (3/5 stars)
104-year-old Ona Viktus forms an unlikely friendship with the boyscout who’s been assigned to help her out at home once a week. When the scout dies unexpectedly, his absentee dad, Quinn, shows up to take his place as a sort of symbolic atonement to his son, and he ends up forming his own unusual and ultimately healing relationship with Ona.
Written in the same vein as books like A Man Called Ove, The One-in-a-Million Boy missed the mark for me. Although I loved the characters of Ona and the boy and thought they were very well-written and endearing, I couldn’t have cared less about Quinn and his life floundering around as a has-been musician or any of the other characters, for that matter — and they comprised a major part of the story. I listened to the audiobook of the book and the narrator did an excellent job, but for me, it was a ‘meh’ experience overall.
The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy (3/5 stars)
Ariel Levy is a fantastic writer, but you can’t help but feel sorry for her after reading this memoir. She comes across as lonely, confused, directionless, and self-absorbed to the point that it’s clearly contributing to her unhappiness. I didn’t dislike her, nor did I dislike the book — I just wished her personal life wasn’t such a tragic mess. Ariel seems smart and competent — I’m rooting for her to sort out her relationships and find her path and her people, and when she does, I hope she writes about it!
What have you read lately?
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Did you know Shrill will be a series on Hulu? It comes out in February or March and stars Aidy Bryant from SNL. Love your book reviews! Am adding The One to my Goodreads list now–
I did not know that, Leigh. That should be interesting! I think you’ll like The One. I love the idea of thrillers, but most of them fall flat for me. This one did not, although warning- parts of it are pretty gruesome.