So, because I am a glutton for punishment and I'm definitely not busy enough already, I'm going to be starting a second podcast all about books! I started a few interviews last week, and I'm really excited to share them with you - my to-read list has already grown so I'm sure yours will, too. If you want to keep up to date, you can follow Readers Gonna Read (the eagle-eyed amongst you will remember my book blog of the same name from way back when) over on Instagram and a website will be following shortly...
I didn't know much about Gabourey Sidibe, the star of Precious and Empire, before I picked up her memoir, but I left this book completely charmed by her and it. She has a really strong voice throughout, really conversational and natural, so it feels a lot like you're having a chat with your funniest friend.
She's incredibly honest about everything from her struggles with depression to her work on a sex phone line, and the way her family treats her now that (they think) she has money to spend. She deals with everything with humour and grace, and a wisdom that's far beyond what you would expect from someone still at the start of their life and career.
She has a unique story, and I think even though I've listed a few of the topics that she covers, you won't know what to expect until you actually open the cover. The daughter of a subway singer mother and a polygamist father who married so he could stay in the States, she is frank about her family and her life.
This isn't the book you should read if you're looking to find out how to break into Hollywood; I expected there to be a lot more about the process of auditioning for and filming Precious but that's really just a small thread of Gabourey's story and really, it might even be the least interesting. There are plenty of Hollywood actors out there, and only one Gabourey Sidibe. You'll feel like you are her best friend by the end of the book (and you'd be a fool not to want to be her best friend because she is an absolute delight).
This isn't so much a book as a bit of a phenomenon, so I bumped it up my to-read list because I just couldn't wait any longer - and I was not disappointed. For those who have avoided the hype, the book tells the story of Michelle's investigation into the rapist and murderer she called the Golden State Killer, but who was known by the police as East Area Rapist - Original Night Stalker (EAR-ONS), who terrorised Southern California in the 1970s and 1980s. Sadly, Michelle McNamara died before the book was published, but it was finished by her researchers piecing together bits from her other work and her notes. She also, sadly, died before he was found and arrested, which happened a few weeks after the publication of the book - and which has intrigued people even more about it.
It's disorientating to read at times; unsurprisingly with a case which covered different areas and many years, it took a while for the police to establish that all the crimes had been committed by the same person and you definitely feel that confusion whilst reading it. There is the benefit of hindsight when looking back at his pattern of behaviours, but Michelle does a good job of capturing the panic and the frustration of the investigation. It *is* frustrating to read because all of her leads go nowhere, although some of the suggestions she makes do appear to have been part of the final investigation. I can only imagine how it was for her, to have actively looked into so many routes which went nowhere, and she is very frank about her obsession with the case and how it impacted her life and the life of her family.
Michelle doesn't only lay out the facts of the case; she spends a lot of time talking about the victims and giving them a large share of the airtime, which is often missing in true crime media, and I really appreciated that. She is sensitive and caring in her coverage of the crimes, but there is no doubt that they will spook you. Don't read this if you're at home alone, *especially* if you are on the ground floor.
I read the book after he had been found and identified, and I think that coloured some of the reading experience for me; I was constantly looking for the clues that lead to his actual arrest, but I was floored by the final chapter - the 'Letter to an Old Man', where she addresses the Golden State Killer directly, and it is worth reading for that experience alone. I was stunned when I put down the book, and it's not one I will forget for a good while.
It may seem a little odd to be reading a Scandi-noir thriller set in a deep, dark forest during the summer months, but I couldn't wait any longer to read this one! I've been pretty open about my up and down (mostly down) relationship with thrillers on this blog, but I knew I could trust Bethany and Alice's recommendation on this one - and I was not disappointed. In fact, I think this might be the best thriller I have ever read; it genuinely kept me guessing right until the end, and despite the sunshine blazing outside my window, I felt truly immersed in the little town of Gavrik and the atmospheric wilderness of Utgard forest.
Tuva Moodyson is working as a reporter at the local paper in the small Swedish town of Gavrik, where she relocated from London to care for her mother, when a body turns up in the woods. Similarities to the infamous 'Medusa' murders of the 90s strike fear into the heart of the locals, and Tuva, sensing the opportunity to beef up her CV for when she eventually escapes small-town life, begins investigating and is soon entangled in the hunt for a serial killer...
It's hard to pin down which is a bigger strength of this thriller: the tight plot which maintains the intrigue right until the final moments, or the strong personalities of both Tuva and the supporting cast of characters. I'm excited that Will Dean seems to be writing more of Tuva's adventures because I warmed to her so much; her own backstory is woven throughout and provides real motivation as she buries herself in the story. She's also queer and deaf, and it's so refreshing that, although those facts about her obviously feature and colour her experiences, it's not what the book is centred on. There's so many vivid characters in this book, from Tuva's friend Tammy, who runs a Thai food truck and keeps a gun for protection against racist customers, to the people who live in the forest and form the basis of Tuva's suspicions - the wood-carving sisters, the tree-hugging hoarder, the reclusive ghostwriter, the creepy taxi driver, and the Stepford-style rich couple. They were all painted so perfectly and, with some heart-stopping moments and constant about-faces thrown in for good measure, this is the thriller I didn't even know I was looking for.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and buy something, I may receive a small commission. Books marked with a * were provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.