Category Archives: Book Review

Review: The Summer Demands

The Summer Demands

The Summer Demands
By Deborah Shapiro
Catapult, 9781948226301, June 2019, 224pp.

The Short of It:

Gave me all the feels of The Big Chill but with a smaller cast of characters.

The Rest of It:

On the verge of her fortieth birthday, Emily inherits an abandoned summer camp from her aunt. She and her husband move there, with the hopes of transforming it into an artist colony. The old, main house is full of charm and memories but the rest of the camp is in need of repair. They both realize it will take quite a bit of resources to get it to where it needs to be. What they don’t immediately realize though is that they already have their first guest.

I really enjoyed The Summer Demands. Emily and her husband are in a good place. Even though she is without a job and trying to find her way again after suffering a miscarriage, Emily is hopeful if not a little lost. But when she stumbles upon Stella, a twenty-something who is essentially squatting on their property, her first reaction is to help her, not oust her and she holds that secret for a little while before telling her husband.

It’s these moments between Stella and Emily that cause so much tension. Female friendships and intimacy, envy, jealousy and longing. Emily is a tad infatuated with Stella but when Stella meets Emily’s husband, Emily notices that everyone she meets is kind of infatuated with Stella. It’s just who she is.

Emily and Stella loll around the camp, swimming, watching movies, and soaking up the sun but as a reader you just know that this idyllic summer must end eventually, and it does. I loved the easiness of this novel. I loved the complexities of female friendships displayed here and I liked how the author explored things without making you feel too strongly about any one thing.

Plus, the setting was great. The lake and the sunlight filtering through the trees. It’s all so palpable. I really enjoyed The Summer Demands but it definitely falls into the “quiet novel” category which I enjoy very much.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
By Michelle McNamara
Harper, 9780062319784, February 2018, 352pp.

The Short of It:

A matter-of-fact investigation of the East Area Rapist, better known as the Golden State Killer, as told by one obsessed journalist, her husband and team who finished the book after her passing in 2016.

The Rest of It:

You might not be familiar with the Golden State Killer. He is responsible for the murders of thirteen people, over fifty rapes and numerous burglaries in California from 1974-1986. His reign of terror began when I was seven years old but I have no recollection of him in the news. This could be due to the fact that at first, he was called the East Area Rapist. Not a name that stuck. Not a name like The Hillside Strangler, for example. When journalist Michelle McNamara became obsessed with the case, she renamed him the Golden State Killer and this is when he began to get more press.

The Golden State Killer left a path of evidence and clues but the science behind DNA analysis wasn’t quite there yet and no DNA databases existed in those early years to help with the investigation. McNamara, a true crime fan and creator of True Crime Diary, began to look into the case, thinking that crowd-sourcing might be a way to gain new information.

Years and years of research led to a book deal but the publisher knew that a book about an unsolved case could be risky given that the guy could still be caught. And caught he was, but not before McNamara, who spent years following his trail, passed away accidentally from a lethal combination of anxiety meds and an undiagnosed heart condition. What became more risky is that Patton Oswalt, a comedian and husband to McNamara, vowed to complete the book using the notes she left behind.

The book itself is pretty well-written. The parts that McNamara wrote, are to-the-point and brief but I felt that something was lacking. Emotion? Passion? She was obsessed with this guy but to me, it didn’t come through in her writing. However, there is something to be said for her matter-of-fact style. I was glad that the more grisly details, as there had to be many, were not shared on the page. I viewed her take of the case as a removed, detached view of someone on the outside looking in. This was strange to me because towards the end of the book, it’s revealed that she had boxes and boxes of files and evidence at her disposal. What she chose to share was minimal, in my opinion.

The other part that was lacking, is that we never got to know the killer because he had not been caught yet. A lot of assumptions were made, and so many of them were wrong. The Golden State Killer was arrested in 2018 after a DNA match was found. Even now, we know nothing about him or why he did what he did or even why he stopped his spree.

Although it may sound as if I did not like the book, I actually did but it wasn’t what I expected it to be. The parts that were pieced together by Oswalt and others are clearly marked. The book doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. There is an authenticity to the writing that I appreciated. It’s definitely a mix of memoir and true crime but perhaps a slightly deeper dive in either direction would have made it more compelling.

As a book club pick, there was a lot to discuss. We talked about the issue of privacy, why true crime is more appealing to women than men, common characteristics in serial killers, and the structure of the book itself.

If you like true crime but don’t want to read anything too gruesome, there are no worries here. Details of the actual attacks are kept to a minimum. You are given just enough to set the tone but nothing more than that.

Have you read the book? Have you heard of the Golden State Killer? Apparently he goes to trial in August 2019. They are seeking the death penalty although our governor recently nixed the death penalty in California. Not sure how that is going to work plus many of the rapes are beyond the statute of limitations now.

An HBO series on I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is currently filming but there is no expected release date listed.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.