Thursday, November 29, 2018

State of the ARC #10

State of the ARC is a monthly feature hosted by Avalinah's Books. I am so glad I stumbled upon it, because it is really helping me with my 2018 Reading Goals (also find a related Top Ten Tuesday HERE). Links go to Goodreads, unless I have finished the review, in which case it goes to that. All ARCs are from NetGalley or Edelweiss, unless otherwise noted.

Pending = None

Not Started = None

Started = Two
Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom, 9-17-18 (received two days after publication, author request/digital from publisher)

The Invisible Emperor, 10-9-18 (hard copy from publisher)

DNF = None

Finished/Review to Come = One

Haunted: Horror of Haverfordwest, 12-1-18

Review or Feedback Sent = Three
Holiday SOS, 11-8-18 (digital from publisher)

I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends, 10-23-18

Death in Paris, 10-9-18 (digital from publisher)

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Would You Rather... #17

Option A or Option B, and why?



Happy Reading!

Beastie Boys Book Non-Review Review



An actual review is forthcoming, but man, I had to say something. I finished the book last night and it was exhausting because there were only so many pages left and when I turned to "The Last Gig" I started bawling my fucking eyes out and couldn't stop. If I stopped reading, MCA wouldn't be gone yet. Logical, right? So instead of reading, I watched a couple videos, An Open Letter to NYC, Intergalactic, and Sabotage. I then found footage of that last show at Bonnaroo in 2009, the last time Beastie Boys ever performed - Sabotage as their finale, no less - and it was everything.

Then I finally opened the book and read "The Last Gig"...And cried for another fucking hour.

Full review to come. But seriously, if you are any kind of Beastie Boys fan at all, you need this. It's exactly what a band memoir should be and I laughed and cried the whole way through.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Ghosts of the McBride House


Rating: 3 Stars

As is usually the issue with a book like this, there is so little solid history. That is what I love about a good ghost story, when the history can be traced and there is some concrete proof of who the spirits were in life. The McBride House stands now in the oldest town in Oklahoma by its original owner, George McBride. Apparently he loved the house so much, he refuses to leave.

All sorts of occurrences are documented here by one of the owners of the home, Cecilia Back. She and her family lived in the home for approximately 25 years. But all while I was reading, something felt off and for a while I could not figure it out but as I read, I realized that honestly, the author's reactions to the home and supposed spirits never really make sense. Sometimes she seems utterly terrified and other times the strange goings-on don't cause much of a reaction at all. I feel like if the family was really all that scared of their fellow residents, they would not have opened the house up for tours and such. Nor would they have stayed so long. Perhaps there was some embellishment? Who knows.

Still, some of the occurrences are intriguing - the ghostly parties at 2 AM, complete with loud chatter and clinking glasses to keep everyone awake, dolls talking even after batteries are removed, loud bangs and crashes that can't be identified, screams, and family members and their guests being beckoned by name. When the family began repairs and restorations, the repairmen often had trouble getting work done because tools and materials would disappear. The one I could not abide would the strange odors of decay, that would make me vomit and be far more disturbing to me, followed a close second by the screaming/shrieking.

Aside from the house itself, I am also curious about Fort Gibson just across the road. The concept of sharing ghosts is interesting and does not seem terribly far-fetched when considering the period the hauntings seem to come from. I'd love to explore the whole area some day and see what I can see. Many people have reported seeing one of the ghost's looking out the window, if I recall correctly I believe it is the little boy.

Which leads right to my next point and that is, according to Back, the ghost has not one, but four different spirits. Based on her interactions, Back has determined that aside from McBride, there is a woman who is  dressed in Victorian-era clothing and wears perfume, then a girl around eight and boy of maybe five. Back writes that her family loved their home and eventually began to think of the invisible residents as part of the family too - again something that seems odd to me if she was ever really all that scared of any of the spirits. And maybe this is not how she intends it to come across at all, but it just doesn't quite make sense to me.
I might able to write it all off as being a result of the day-to-day living with them though, where for a while you get lulled into the false sense of everything being calm, to sudden shrieking that scares the daylights out of you. I have personally experienced both kinds of 'hauntings', those that come from living with a spirit and also those of just visiting - though haunting does not seem to be the right word, because I have never felt that any of my experiences were scary (such as The Stanley in Estes Park, CO and the The Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre, MN, as well as my former apartment where Ghost Baby and I lived together for five peaceful years).

I always want to believe all of these books and experiences, but I find it odd that the family lived in the house for such a long time, and never got any tangible evidence that they could show. Or maybe they did and chose not share it? I don't know, but there's no reference to any such evidence. I think that part of a story like this is also important, but even so you will always have critics saying that it is doctored in some way.

Overall it is not the worst paranormal book I have ever read, but not the best either (that honor still belongs to Richard Estep's Spirits of the Cage, about life in a former medieval prison). There are some intriguing experiences but still, I want to know more of the history - something that simply may not be possible. It's a quick read and one that isn't a terrible way to spend a couple hours.

Review Bomb: Tudor History

Before I fell in love with those crazy Plantagenets, I loved the Tudors. I have been incredibly lucky to not only get my hands on such fantastic texts about the rather short dynasty, but to also become friends with several authors who share the love for this family as I do - or who love them far more. Unfortunately some of the books, like with all subjects, are really hit or miss. The Tudors have been done to death practically, and sometimes it seems as though there is nothing new to discover. I hope this is not true, but sometimes it really does feel that way.

20572357 2 Stars

I was really excited to read this one because I am absolutely in love with the clothing from the period - while at the same time incredibly thankful I don't have to dress that way daily. Still, the clothing was lovely and I was interested to see what delights the book would show off. I should have paid much closer attention to the blurb I suppose, because the book was not solely about Anne's clothes, but what she wore at various periods in her life. In that regards then, there is nothing new here, which was disappointing. I was hoping this would be the primary focus, but in the end it was only a regurgitation of Anne's story with the sections each titled by an article of clothing she wore at that time. We do get information regarding all of the layers of clothing Anne wore, as well as documentary proof in the forms of purchase orders and other such records. These provide a glimpse of the types of accessories and clothing Anne was most fond of, as well as the materials used to make up her wardrobe. What could have been most valuable though were sketches of what the articles looked like. Even though none of Anne's clothing survives today, there are enough descriptions of certain articles that belonged to her, which coupled with what we know of general fashion of the time could have provided enough of an idea for an illustrator to fill the pages from section to section. It seems like such an obvious and missed opportunity.

The biggest issue for me was the retelling of her story in the barest bones kind of way. The book is not long at all, just a little over 100 pages. So, it did not do what it set out to do - give clear portrait of her clothing - and because of the short length it could not do what other books about Anne do, which is give a detailed history of those fateful years when Henry went after Anne. It is also quite the pro-Anne piece, and while I have little regard for this particular Boleyn girl, I certainly appreciate good biographies of ALL Tudor figures. Many of the descriptions of the clothing and accessories are taken from contemporary sources, which is great, but again, sketches would have been a huge boost to this little text.

I do like that the author kept the focus directly on Anne. Sometimes histories like this give an overview of the generalities before going into the specifics when they run out of things to say. I can appreciate that the author did not compromise her work in that way, as some might be tempted to do. As such, however, this would not necessarily then be a work for an everyday reader who knows little about the clothing of the time.

Ending on a positive note, there were other aspects of the book I enjoyed that were related to Anne's clothing while not being about the clothing directly. You will find interesting information regarding how the clothing was cleaned and cared for, where it was stored, and other little bits that you might not have considered when Anne was executed.

24853544 3 Stars

This book will best serve those who already have a pretty good idea of Who's Who in regards to the Tudor dynasty. All the Marys and Margarets get confusing if you don't have a decent grasp on which one is which, along with all the others of the same names. Even so, this is not a terrible book, but is certainly not the best I have read on the subject of lesser-known Tudor women. It is misleading to call them 'forgotten' though. All three women played somewhat-to-fairly significant roles at one point or another. Margaret was Henry's niece (and mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots), Mary Howard his daughter-in-law and a Boleyn cousin, and Mary Shelton one of his mistresses and another Boleyn cousin. It is necessary to also note that while they were important, they also managed to stay out of Henry's way, and all managed to die of natural causes instead of on the block for contributing to some perceived plot against the throne. So perhaps in that regard they are forgotten only in terms of being overshadowed by the larger than life personalities of the women most closely associated with Henry.

It's tricky though, to decide who would be best suited for this book. Anyone who is well-versed in Tudor history will already know plenty of information about these three women and would not consider them forgotten. But as I mentioned above, if you don't have some kind of basis to build on, it would be easy to get confused. The author also discusses those in a wider net of relations to the women on the cover - especially in the case of Margaret Douglas. There is quite a bit included on her son, Lord Darnley, and his ill-fated marriage to my girl Mary, Queen of Scots - thus making Margaret the grandmother of James VI/I. It's not terribly in-depth, but there is enough background that at least fleshes each woman out to make them visible.

Mary Shelton is the one I knew least about, which is probably the view of most. I was interested to learn that she was quite intelligent, and a poet. That part is not surprising, but it was interesting to learn her great-grandson is one of the men who signed Charles I's death warrant. I always enjoy learning new little bits of information, especially when it is a topic I think might nearly be exhausted (though I really, really hope it isn't).

OJ Simpson and Glen Rogers: The Juice, Road Dog, and Murder on Bundy Drive


Rating: 2 Stars

Oi. This book was so...frustrating. It's hard to rate and I am not totally comfortable with the 2 stars, but I am also not to comfortable giving it a much higher rating. I simply can not believe that a guy so stupid as to use his own name when checking into motels where women would later be discovered dead, is at the same time intelligent enough to not only frame OJ for Nicole's and Ron's murders, but to do so in a complex fashion that this book would like you to believe. I guess if I were to have to judge each part of the book on its own, the first section that details Rogers' life and crimes would be a 3.5 or a 4. But the second part relating to the conspiracy theory that Rogers and Simpson were both involved in the robbery-turned-murder? Definitely much lower, 1 star, 1.5 maybe. There are several contradictory statements and some really outlandish theories, and a fair amount of condescension sprinkled in as though readers would be absolutely stupid to believe anything but the murders playing out this way.

The first section of the book details an absolutely horrific upbringing and I am honestly surprised that Glen Rogers even made it to adulthood. He killed who knows how many people - by his own estimates according to the book, there could've been seventy, though he later recanted these statements. One might wonder if that were the case, why they had not all been connected by now, and why hasn't he been charged? Well, the honest to God reason is that it seems that no one really gives a shit. Seriously. There were so many points in the book that I was practically pulling out my own hair wondering why the police never seemed interested in prosecuting him for the Mark Peters murder. That alone could have saved countless victims later on. But, as we all know, justice works differently for different people in our country so if you're from a poorer class or -gasp- a prostitute, good luck on your own. And those were the women who typically met their ends when they came into contact with Rogers. This quote is particularly telling:

"The capture of Glen Edward Rogers ended a nationwide manhunt for one of the country's most wanted fugitives. He had run free - though he was hardly running because nobody was chasing him - for nearly two years following the mysterious disappearance and still unexplained death of Mark Peters. Citing cost, authorities in Hamilton, Ohio, where Peters was murdered, and in Kentucky, where the body was dumped, decided not to follow Glen's trail to California even to question him. He was a career criminal with a long rap sheet going back to his preteen years. But he had been ignored. Hamilton police were happy to forget him, relying on the old police adage: If he isn't in our jurisdiction, he isn't our problem. They had enough of their own troubles without worrying about someone who had moved away. But Glen Rogers could not longer be ignored. His flight and six-week killing spree ended on a Kentucky road that day, but not before four unlucky women met violent deaths. And evidence suggests that Glen Rogers' homicidal ways may have started many years earlier" (35%).

Some seriously fucked up things were going on in his life when he was a child and no one should be surprised that he turned out the way he did. His mom pimped him out to pretty much anyone willing to pay - including male family members. He also has what seems to be pretty severe brain damage which he received from being beaten when he was young. On top of that, he was reportedly prostituting himself out at a pretty early age and there are also statements that he was abused by prison guards when he was in youth detention. It is not a huge leap to think he may have also been abused by other inmates, the authors say.

I am completely flabbergasted by this idea of Glen Rogers being such a ladies' man. The whole 'Casanova Killer' thing is so weird, because he is not at all attractive. I get that it was the 80s and mullets were sort of acceptable but come on. The fact that Rogers, like other serial kills, has groupies is an additionally gross facet of this story. That he had enough presence of mind to capitalize on this "fame" is also gross and I wish it wasn't allowed. There's a quote in the book (I accidentally deleted what % I found it at though) that stated:

"It wasn't long after his capture that Rogers decided he needed attention. He placed a call to Richmond Register reporter Todd Blevins. Blevins had given his business card to a female admirer of Rogers who visited him in jail."

This is disgusting on so many levels. Not only does this dirt bag want attention, he has crazy women who visit him. Again, how is he any kind of 'Casanova'? And more...

"...Glen could stay occupied just reading his mail. Most of it was from female admirers and groupies, former girlfriend Maria Gyore, and a girl from nearby Berea with the air of a coal miner's daughter who pretended to be a relative. She visited and wrote constantly, falsely logging in at the jail as a 'step-niece'" (45%)

Seriously. WTF. He also signed a bunch of index cards that were sold for $30 a pop in some criminal magazine. All of this is so weird, I don't understand the type of people who are attracted to criminals - especially ones guilty of exceptionally violent crimes.

I think it is important to look at the "unsolved" murder of Mark Peters, because had Glen Rogers been apprehended then, so many others would have been spared - whether or not his victims really number in the seventies or not. In this vein, the authors present a well-researched case that supports that idea. It makes little sense to me why the authorities waited so long to even identify Peters' remains. They lay out plenty of evidence  showing that Rogers' was his murderer, and yet it was never a priority. Why they did not act on the evidence is not explained, other than the costs and such that I indicated earlier. A very unfortunate lapse in professional judgment and they can be held as much responsible as Rogers himself. It is also suggested that, given Rogers' history of working as a prostitute at truck stops along the interstate near his hometown, that his relationship with Mark Peters may have been sexual as well, as the older man supposedly gave Rogers money and here it is implied that money was for sex. Either way, the murder was one no one seemed interested in investigating and as a result, Rogers was free to wander around and do whatever he wanted.

As the book moved into the second section directly related to Rogers' supposed ties to Simpson, there were simply too many pieces of the puzzle trying to be jammed into a mold they did not belong to. Lots of speculation, and things that just not make sense. There's also a way to speculate without being condescending, and then there's a way to speculate and come across as believing this is all so obvious that anyone who does not agree is an idiot. That is rather off-putting and contributes just as much to my disbelief as anything else.

At this point I should state that I firmly believe that OJ Simpson murdered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. I was willing to hear the theory out and see what kind of connections the authors came up with. Their research was absolutely meticulous when it came to the events in Rogers' life before he supposedly came to know Simpson. But once THAT story started unfolding, it bordered on insanity. As I was reading the book, my memory was jogged into recalling that there was talk of an accomplice, but I was 11 in 1994 and despite reading much material on the subject since then, I did not recall ever hearing Rogers' name, if it was in fact stated publicly at the time. I remember with perfect clarity the Bronco chase and the utter circus involving this case from start to finish. And is it really ever going to be finished? I think not. Until he admits to what he did, it will never be over. But I digress.

Around 68% the authors state that Glen had "tenuous ties to OJ because web sites and other books by family members asserted that Glen was likely OJ's accomplice". Through the same websites and books the authors claim they learned that Rogers had supposedly "...spent time in a bar or restaurant with Nicole the night before or at some point the week before her death and that there was a picture of the encounter. That photo was said to be in the hands of a family member. Did such a picture exist?" (70%). Yet I do not recall the question ever being answered either way if said photo exists or not. Surely with a brother who seemed keen on fame-by-association would have produced this photo if it existed? There is also discussion about how Rogers bragged to that brother, Clay, that "...he was going to 'take down' a former pro football player and the player's wife. It was going to be a big score and he was going to set up the former player." Clay went on to say Glen had been bragging about it all before it happened. Can we really believe that though? Glen was sixteen years old when he was still in ninth grade and that's as far as he ever made it in school. Literally everything else known about him that's stated in this book shows that is simply not possible. His IQ is what, like a 76? Yet he planted evidence and false evidence and framed OJ? Come on now.

In general, there were also just some really weird phrases that were not nearly as dramatic as they were probably intended to be, and were actually rather silly instead:

"It was all speculation heaped upon maybe..." (70%)

"...and that hearsay was stirred into a pudding that had even more hearsay" (70%)

"How the murders happened is a chimera riding an enigma into a hurricane names What If" (73%)

"Maybe heaped upon Might-have-been and both were on a horse named Could Be..." (90-something%)


The leaps in logic and speculation are also wildly out of control in this second section of the book. They state with the edition of Road Dog, they didn't have proof that Glen was connected to Simpson in any way, whether it be by working as a repairman, or a coke supplier to Nicole or her friend Faye Resnick. As such, this was not explored the first time around. We do get some explanation for some of the pieces the authors connect, but then they also seem, but even so, it is hard to take the connection seriously.

"But did it make sense that a couple worth millions would even bother to know a guy like Glen?..." [Spoiler Alert: NOPE] "...We knew when Road Dog was published that Rogers lived in a few places in Southern California at the same time Nicole and Ron were murdered...We knew that Glen, who worked as an Ohio drug informant, might have taken his trade to Southern California under an assumed name, say, the identity that he stole...We knew that he might have gone to work  for local and other narcotics authorities as a confidential police informant. It all added up or at least was starting to add up. What's more, LA police would have looked the other way if Rogers' involvement with OJ was ever brought to their attention. It made sense that Rogers could have and should have been a suspect in the OJ case" (71%).

This paragraph illustrates the exact problem with the whole second section of the book. Facts that are provable, and then crazy leaps. Would the police really have "looked the other way"? What makes anyone sure that he became an informant, just because he had been one at home? For a guy who committed so many crimes, he sure was fond of working with the police. Sure, it was extra cash but it just doesn't make sense.

The authors do ask a lot of legitimate and interesting questions regarding the evidence, but I don't think there is any great mystery to most of them. They ask about the hat found at the crime scene and wonder if it was "one of Rogers' crime scene manipulations" (73%), also wondering who the hat belonged to and what property it came from. Then the carton of ice cream on the stair railing, which they offer possible explanation of Glen taking it from the garbage, or something he bought, or that it meant nothing. Doesn't it make a lot more sense that Nicole was eating the ice cream? Or is there some evidence I don't know about that proves it was not Nicole's ice cream? In this same slew of questions they touch on the knife left on the kitchen counter and put forth the idea it was Glen's "calling card" (73%). Would Nicole even recognize it as such, would she have known Glen Rogers that well? How can it be a calling card when literally no one really knew he was even a killer at that point? Other possibilities they bring up include the fact that perhaps Glen left it as a warning for Nicole to show he had been inside the home while they'd all been out at the dance recital earlier, or that Nicole laid out the knife because OJ had arrived and she feared for her life. Doesn't it make sense that the most logical explanations are the ones we should go with here? Nicole was eating ice cream, she heard Ron at the door to bring the sunglasses, or OJ was there to start a fight over what happened at the recital. This random drug dealer/hooker/killer/repairman is not the likely answer here and when you lay everything out, he makes the least amount of sense.

There is one thing I agree with the authors on, however, and that is that the police did not manipulate any evidence. I'm pretty sure that everything left behind at the scene was inadvertent and that a panicked OJ had done it after he had murdered Nicole and Ron in a fit of rage. Yet the difference between what I think happened and what the authors propose is that the drops of blood in and around the Bronco were planted by Glen, as were the bloody socks found on the floor in the middle of OJ's bedroom. They claim the socks were "too contrived" and that "The sock hat left at the crime scene" and "The glove behind a guest house" smelled like "badly planted clues" (75%). They're even so bold as to say that their reasoning is the only way the whole horrible event made sense, and it was not a matter of no evidence being planted, but instead ALL the evidence had been planted. Again, are we going to believe that Rogers was really smart enough to do this? At times it seems like the authors can't decide either if he was clever enough or not. They refer to a documentary on Rogers and in one breath say "Rogers often left false clues on his crime scenes" (76%) and indicate that OJ's hands were not cut by broken glass but that the cut came from Glen and his knife, who needed to have OJ's blood at the scene to frame him. Yet 4% later they're telling us that "The story Glen told Detective McIntosh isn't wholly fabricated. Glen is not clever enough for that" (80%). So which is it? Because this comes up again. Glen is not clever enough to make up a story for a detective, but he is clever enough to 'accidentally' cut OJ's hand to get his blood at the scene?

Much of the evidence also depends on the idea that Rogers was present at one time or another, or even several times, doing either repairs or working as a painter at either the home on Bundy or at Rockingham. They maintain that this means Rogers would have had access to items belonging to OJ, including the gloves and hat. Not only is Rogers back to being clever, but forward thinking, because he supposedly stole these things to use in the crime later. So, if OJ hired Rogers to steal the jewels back from Nicole (we'll get to that whole tangled mess in a minute), how long in advance was this planned? But again, where is the proof that Rogers ever set foot on either property? The documentary continues to be brought up suggesting "that Glen not only left false leads at most of his crime scenes, but he did it for many years. Clay taught him that strategy, or the knowledge came from his time in prison as a youth" (81%).

While there is a lot of assumption about whether or not Glen was ever even in California, the authors do provide one piece of evidence that proves he was possibly there at least, though it does not prove he lived there or for how long. When the murder of Linda Price, Rogers' victim in Jackson, Mississippi, was investigated, an interesting find was discovered. A purse was found at the scene that contained a few interesting items, namely a disposable camera and prescription bottle of codeine. The prescription belonged to Rogers' one-time girlfriend Maria Gyore and had been filled at a pharmacy less than ten miles away from Nicole's home. The film was also developed and found to contain pictures of Rogers and Price with his arm around her, wearing the watch which was found at a different murder scene connected to Rogers. Even so, because his girlfriend had filled a prescription at a pharmacy near the scene of Nicole's violent death, OBVIOUSLY Rogers murdered her and Goldman.

There are some interesting clues found at another one of Rogers' crime scenes that provides some easy-to-manipulate information. And the reason it is easy to twist the information around is because it appears it will not be tested any time soon. At the scene where Andy Sutton was murdered, a pair of pants was found that contained a knife. The knife used to kill Sutton had been taken from his own kitchen and then put back after it was used. The authors suggest it could have been the knife used to kill Nicole and Ron. There is certainly an easy way to determine whether or not that is true - for it to be tested for a DNA match. So why has this not been done, if this theory makes so much sense? They also maintain that a pair of bloody shoes found in Rogers' possession at the time of his arrest could have been a souvenir from the murder he had committed and framed OJ for. Like the knife, the shoes should be tested for DNA to prove or disprove this theory. But perhaps convincing the authorities to do so might be a bit of a challenge. The authors have contacted a clerk who works in the evidence room and stated that while the shoes are still there, a detective would have to request the test. So...can't this idea be presented to a detective to see if he or she would be willing to order the test? I am not sure how any of this works and my knowledge is limited only to whatever procedures I witnessed on Law and Order: SVU, so...

In addition to the claim that Glen Rogers was the murderer that long ago night on Bundy Drive, they also maintain that it was actually a burglary attempt. Much attention is paid to Nicole and OJ's relationship and the jewelry he had showered her with over the years. There are a lot of claims made about Glen as well, and how he would have supposedly known so much about jewelry. But where is the evidence that this was true? This is what we are offered:

"Glen would have known more than a little about jewelry. He had lived for years in Southern California, and on any given Saturday night he would see the glittering diamond rings and necklaces worn by the men and women of Santa Monica and Brentwood, Hollywood and Beverly Hills in those California dance clubs and bars. How could he miss those gems?" (86%)

Okay, so he saw a lot of jewelry when he may or may not have lived in SoCal, but does this really prove anything? They go on to state he knew that OJ and those of his social standing would buy expensive jewelry for their significant others, and that this jewelry was expected to be worn and "flaunted" and that "Glen wanted it for himself" (86%). But again, where is the proof? It's not as though he was cracking safes and stealing all the shiny baubles he found inside. It is asserted that because Glen was a career thief, he would have been the one to receive a call from OJ asking him to steal back the jewelry that he had given Nicole in happier times. Even so, there is still no actual proof that they ever knew each other. They certainly would not have been in the same social circles, even if they did know each other. And without the picture that it is claimed exists of Nicole and Glen, there is no way to know if they ever crossed paths even if it is shown unequivocally that Glen lived in California for any amount of time. Much is also made of the idea that not having her jewelry would have been the ultimate insult to Nicole, and would have signaled her fall from the pedestal where she lived during her time married to OJ. We are to believe that jewels and gems were OJ's way of branding of the women in his life and that he wanted them back, so that he could show Nicole without a doubt that he was always the one in control. And we are also to believe that this was a burglary from OJ's point of view, but that Glen Rogers was clever enough to spot the opportunity that he could keep the jewels for himself by planning this complex way to frame OJ for murder. The authors claim that OJ would not have wanted to bother with murder when his life was so good, that his life was so perfect without her, he would not throw it all away. The problem with that theory is that Nicole was the one who had already humiliated OJ by pushing him away for good. OJ was all about control and Nicole was wrecking that. He went over to the house that night in a rage and whether or not he intended to kill her, that is what happened. Not only that, but let's not forget the dozens of head shots and concussions he had sustained over the years - he's crazy. That control over her was slipping away and OJ could not handle it.

Just a few words later we are tossed this little bit of a theory and I am far more willing to buy this than the murders being a nefarious plan of a guy who didn't make it beyond 9th grade:

"Or maybe he wanted her murdered after all, found a guy willing to do it and OJ needed to see the look on Nicole's face when her life ended there on Bundy" (89%).

Yes, that is a theory I could get behind if I did not believe that OJ had committed the murders himself, that he would have hired someone to do the job for him. But then right away we are back to the idea that Rogers was the one truly in control.

"The crime scene was handily manipulated by a career criminal so no evidence would be left for the cops except the evidence that he had chosen to be left on the scene: a stolen knit cap that had hair still in it, a glove that held no OJ fingerprints, show prints from OJ that went from dying victim to dying victim and the out the back gate. Thanks to Glen, all the canards and apparent evidence would point in only one direction: an estranged husband who single-handedly and in a fit of rage would commit a double homicide. That mistaken but widespread belief, more trust than anything else, that only one killer was in the condo court yard will haunt this crime scene forever. It is not preposterous to consider that these murders were done by a thief-for-hire who in turn 'helped' OJ clean up and get back to Rockingham in time for his flight to Chicago. OJ did not do the killing but he is to blame" (90%).

But that's the IS kind of preposterous. This theory rests on a lot of things that simply can not be proven. Is there anything else that ties Glen Rogers to California beside the prescription bottle that belonged to Gyore?

There are details then concerning the use of watches at Glen's crime scenes and how he used them to mark his kills. The authors refer to Nicole's broken watch face as yet another clue that Glen left behind, and how it was all a game to him. "The watch was Glen's calling card - his mark" (94%). But I thought the knife was his calling card? And I thought he wasn't clever? Or is he? We are told that Rogers "...used watches as obtuse clues to his identity and to simply mark the time and date of his kills" (94%). The authors also maintain that OJ was in shock when he discovered Glen's handiwork, and that is why he did not notice as Rogers planted all these subtle little clues that would eventually point to OJ himself.

So, I know I have gone on and on and on, but there really are some major issues with the second section of this book. It all just speculation. This book can not be labeled anything more than a conspiracy theory, and I can not take it seriously. The authors only insist that the crime scene makes scene when you "Put jewel thief and killer Rogers on the scene and everything adds up: the mysteriously unblemished face of OJ despite having supposedly fought a martial arts expert in hand-to-hand combat, the stolen ski mask that was intentionally (not inadvertently) left at the crime scene, the gloves that did not fit (and did not have a knife cut on them nor OJ's blood or fingerprints), how the pattern of the wounds matched other crimes by Rogers, particularly the slashed throat of Nicole, the bloody heel print on the back of Nicole's garment, the Bronco seen by a witness careening through the Bundy intersection that held two occupants (Glen and OJ) and not just one, the bloody trail across the driveway at Rockingham, the bloody glove left behind at Rockingham, the call from OJ made from an LAX pay phone only a minute before he had to leave for Chicago to Kaelin to have him reset the Rockingham burglary alarm in the hope that Kaelin would run into Rogers, who may not have yet left the house. It all adds up. For the first time there is a believable explanation for the trail of blood that OJ left on the patio. He was stabbed in the hand by Glen. For the first time there is a plausible motive for OJ to be at the scene. Just like in 1989, he wanted his jewelry back..." (99%).

I guess all that is really left to say is that you can decide for yourself whether anything in this is plausible. Rogers is referred to as both clever and not, that he manipulated the crime scene, but clumsily left evidence. So which is it?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

ARC: Death in Paris


I received a free digital ARC via David Haviland at Thistle Publishing in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 3 Stars

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might know that at the end of 2016 I had a huge crisis in that I was dangerously close to not reaching my reading goal, so in the last few weeks of the year I found via BookBub every free cozy mystery and chick lit book I could and devoured them, sometimes a dozen a day. In the end it was not enough and I fell short by a few books. But, I discovered a couple really true things:

1. Chick lit is stupid and terrible

2. I dig cozy mysteries

I spent a lot of time making fun of the sub-genre name because it just sounds silly. In fact, my Goodreads shelf is called 'wtf does cozy mystery mean' despite the fact that I do actually know what it means. Doesn't stop it from being silly, though. Anyway, I really like it because usually the books feature some quirky fun characters, interesting mysteries that are not too yucky (mostly) and are also quick reads and fun. My fave series is the Mercy Watts series, even though I absolutely raged against the first book, mostly because of its inaccuracies about Lincoln, Nebraska. I went to college there, and all of it was just WRONG. But, I didn't give it up because the boxed set of the first three plus a novella was $.99 one day. After that I paid full price for the rest of the series (no worries, only $3.99 each) and devoured them just as quickly. Two words: Chuck Watts.

You might be wondering what the hell any of this has to do with Death in Paris and really, nothing directly. However, I used the above as an example in that I do know what a cozy mystery is, and this is not one of them, though it is kind of billed as such. It has parts of the formula there in the way of the two amateur sleuths, but that's about it. It came across to me as very serious, though the main characters were funny in unintentional ways, which is basically whenever they made a wild leap in logic. It didn't happen all the time, but often enough that I took note of it. There weren't intentionally funny or quirky characters, no granny packing heat, no Star Trek-themed restaurants, none of the sort.

To be clear, this does not by any means make it a bad book. It simply was not what I expected. I really liked the actual mystery aspect of the book in the who-dun-it realm, but had some issues with the main characters, Rachel and Magda.

And really, I should have known, because, THAT COVER. It's a simple and stunning cover, but entirely too serious for a little cozy mystery. I thought there might still be some hope for it to be cozy, seeing as how the victim had a heart attack and ended up face-down in a bowl of soup. I mean, it is not terribly nice to laugh at anyone's death, even a fictional character's, but come on!

Even so.

Rachel is an American living in Paris and had previously dated the man who was murdered. It was twenty years previously, and they had no contact over the years really, but even though the relationship had been important to her, it was almost like she and her sleuthing buddy treated it like a game to see if they could solve the mystery. They constantly referred to detective shows and such, and while I do not think it was the author's intention for the characters to come across that way, that is how it felt to me based on their words and actions. In addition, they never really felt real, or maybe whole, to me. They were good friends, that was evident in the writing, and supportive of one another, but they did not ever become whole in my mind. Maybe that is simply because this is the first book in the series, and we will learn more about them in future books, but I feel like it is pretty important for that character development to be there from the start, or there is little incentive for readers to keep coming back. There was not some unique hook about either of them. I honestly could not even tell you a single detail about what Rachel looks like, her hobbies (besides freaking out about a random bottle of wine, and writing poetry), nothing. Same for Magda. if I read any of those details, I don't remember them now.

Even though the usual suspects were rounded up, the ex-wife, the son, the poor college student/assistant, the butler, the girlfriend, there were nice little motives for each. Even if they were all complete clichés, at least they were full characters I felt. More so than the main characters really, and that is not a great look if further books will be centered on Rachel and Magda solving mysteries in future installments. I am not entirely clear on that aspect, it was my understanding this was the first in a series, though I wasn't sure if each story will have new characters and simply be connected by all occurring in Paris.

The biggest issue for me was the way the mystery came about. Rachel read about Edgar's death in the newspaper and at the funeral home with Magda overhears a conversation where someone mentions that there was a bottle of rosé on the table when he was discovered. Rachel is immediately convinced that he was murdered because when they were dating (twenty years prior) he HATED that stuff and would never have had it out for himself. This leads her to believe that someone else was with him, and since that person has not been discovered, then that person must then be the killer. It should come as no surprise that the police do not believe her. And really, it did seem silly. he and Rachel had no contact in that twenty years despite parting on friendly terms. She does not think it possible for even a single second that over time he changed his mind about the offending drink. It was just a bit silly and she comes across as very naive in thinking he was the exact same man when he died that he was when they were together. I also felt like so many of their guesses or theories beyond that initial discovery were pure luck when they turned out to be correct. Or a secondary character popped up just in time to give them some direction or a clue or something.

Lucky for her, she was right. Or unlucky I suppose, depending on how you look at it. Equally lucky for Rachel, Edgar made a request in his will that she be the one to organize his home library, so she has plenty of opportunities to investigate from the inside. I was especially partial to that aspect of the story because what a dream that would be, recording and cataloging a huge collection of rare books. *Sigh*. What a dream that would be - especially if I could take any one book I wanted. This was, of course, not incredibly detailed, as it was not the focus of the story. Boo.

I am sure this may come across as being to picky. After all, most cozy mysteries require some suspension of belief about something related to the sleuthing. But still, there were just too many little things that added up to make this a potential series I likely will not return to, unless there is some improvement on character development. That part is really important to me, especially when it comes to the amateur sleuths. If I don't feel like I know the character, I end up not really caring if she solves the mystery or not.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

NetGalley ARC - I'll Be There For You: The One About FRIENDS


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 4 Stars

All of what follows might seem a little strange to anyone who knows me and realizes that I am about the same age as the characters...when the show was ending. That's right folks, I was there from the beginning, right there at age eleven. Before you start questioning the parenting in my family, relax. It's not like I was obsessed with the show from the start. But we stumbled on this funny show about six people living in a city I'd always been completely enamored with, and from then on I never missed an episode if I could help it. and when I did have to miss one, thank goodness for VCRs. Some of the topics went right over my head, and that's okay - they should have. But still, what I got was this message that friends can be every bit as important as family...and that getting a huge apartment in NYC is totally doable for someone just a few years out of college.

If I am being totally honest, this book really isn't a four-start read. Part of my brain automatically rates the book a little higher than it deserves because I love this show so much. As in yes, I STILL love this show so much, and it is 2018. When I saw this come up on NetGalley I was super excited and waited not-so-patiently for an approval. I checked compulsively, sometimes multiple times a day, to see if I had been approved - sometimes publishers (though rarely in my experience) don't send an email telling you if you have been approved or denied so I pretty proactive when it is something I MUST get my hands on ASAP. Well over a decade ago I received The One With All Ten Seasons for Christmas and up until my daughter was born in 2013,  I'd fallen asleep to FRIENDS every night (I still do when she is at her dad's house). It's the show that I have counted on time and again to get me through rough break-ups, real life friends turning out to be assholes, and a myriad of other situations more or less important. It's also the show I know I can fall asleep to because I have literally seen the series hundreds of times, it is not as though I will stay up late to watch. Even in my half-asleep state I might chuckle at Chandler as I drift off to sleep, but I know it will be there when I wake up in the morning and that is comforting. And seriously, a few close friends and I can have entire conversations only using quotes from the show. It's a gift - along with the years and years of re-watching it took for those precious lines to be seared into our brains forever.

I am THAT fan, okay? And I ain't sorry about it one bit.

Now that my insanity has been firmly established, on to the book.

It is...decent. A solid three actual stars for the writing, maybe two and a half for the content, which sounds weird when the content is some I LOVE MORE THAN ALMOST ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD. The thing about that content is though, that there is not exactly anything new or groundbreaking here. We can all agree that there are some very problematic things with the show, and some of the things they got away with then would not be allowed now. But the thing about that is, those things have been addressed multiple times, any time that meme comes up stating how old Ben, the twins, and Emma would be now. Lack of diversity (though everyone seems to forget about Julie (Lauren Tom) early on, and only remember Kristen (Gabrielle Union, season seven one-off and Charlie (Aisha Tyler, story arc season 9) is a problem, and questions about whether the show was steeped in homophobia for all the jokes made at Chandler's expense, etc. But then one must only go back to the VERY FIRST EPISODE OF THE WHOLE SERIES, to be reminded that Carol and Ross divorced because she realized she was a lesbian. In 1994, that was HUGE. There were not a plethora of gay or lesbian characters on television, and FRIENDS started with one right out of the gate. While Carol and Susan were not constant fixtures on the show, we saw some of their biggest moments - Ben's birth, their wedding. And let's also discuss one of my favorites, Chandler's dad. I don't think anyone could have played that role better than Kathleen Turner, hands down. Still, the references to Chandler being gay were pretty common, and it's not exactly cool to make someone's sexuality a punchline. However, I think because we are all very widely aware of how much the world has changed just since the show started and ended, we can recognize the show's shortcomings and still embrace it as one of the game-changers and greatest shows of all time.

I really did not like the constant mentions and comparisons to Seinfeld. It happened A LOT. I get it, the temptation is there, two insanely popular shows about people living in NYC. But come on. The so-called DEFINITIVE book about FRIENDS doesn't need the constant Seinfeld comparisons. If you want to talk about Seinfeld so much, write a book about it.

Perhaps it is kind of ironic that I am writing this review (FINALLY) just a few days before Thanksgiving. I love the show (obviously), but those Thanksgiving episodes were the best. So, because I can, I will quickly rank all ten Thanksgiving episodes from worst to best:

10. Tricked ya! There was not really a Thanksgiving episode in season 2. The holiday gets mentioned in The One With the List but it is not a Thanksgiving-centric episode like all the others.

9. The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs

8. The One Where Underdog Gets Away (season 1)

7. The One With Rachel's Other Sister (season 9)

6. The One With All the Thanksgivings (season 5)

5. The One With the Late Thanksgiving (season 10)

4. The One With Chandler in a Box (season 4)

3. The One With the Rumor (season 8)

2. The One Where Ross Got High (season 6)

1. The One With the Football (season 3)

If you've never seen the show, then I first must inquire as to what rock you've been living under. Second, I must direct you to watch all of these first. There's not really a Thanksgiving episode that I did not like, and this list even changes from time to time, but #1 and #2 always remain constant.

There are a lot of good things in this book, even if there are no new facts, no new revelations or theories or ideas. As I mentioned above, criticism over lack of diversity has been mentioned time and time and time again in various media outlets and blogs and articles and everything. It was being mentioned when the show was airing, after all. So, I did not find anything in the author's interpretations as new or bold or earth shattering.

I can appreciate the author's observations about just how deeply FRIENDS impacted pop culture, and she does go into detail about many areas. One of the things that I have always been bothered by was the show's very subtle illusions to 9-11. Regardless of the fact that this show is a comedy, it always seemed very odd to me that there would not have been a direct impact on any of their lives. You know, those lives that they lead in LOWER MANHATTAN. I certainly would not expect the 'A Very Special Episode' treatment, but not acknowledging this massive national tragedy was a huge miss to me. They could have done it well, and in a tasteful way. Ignoring it all together never made sense to me. For many, I get it that FRIENDS is a source of comfort. It is exactly that same thing to me to, those six are friends of yours and mine, we know nearly every intimate detail about their lives for TEN YEARS. Maybe it is exactly because the show is set in lower Manhattan that they could not reference it, that the show had to remain that temporary escape from the real world where things were normal and perfect.

Even with the criticism, there is no denying the staying-power of the show. It has aired in reruns pretty much as soon as it went off the air. It was a HUGE deal when Netflix acquired rights and we suddenly got to watch the show WITHOUT CHANGING DISCS!! (Though to be honest I would rather be up changing discs every couple of hours, as the Netflix episodes are the cut, standard versions, not the extended episodes from the DVD collections).

Still, I appreciate the book because I love the show. I love it as much now as I did then. Even though there was very little offered in the way of new evaluation, it was a nostalgic trip down memory lane - even though I still take that trip regularly. Perhaps I found the book comforting though because we were also presented with reminders of the behind-the-scenes things we already know so well - particularly the detail regarding the salary negotiations. Some people don't realize how close the show came to not even making it to ten season in those later years. I also appreciate the author's mention of other projects that some of the actors and actresses had going on there in the beginning, and what it took to get the show going to begin with. Had any one of them decided to hedge their bets on a different pilot, we might never have seen the inside of Central Perk. That's not a world I want to live in.

Despite my best intentions, I have come to realize that I rapidly nose-dived into making this review about the show, not the book. I can't help it, when the show we are talking about is FRIENDS. But, I'll try again. It is obvious that the author loves FRIENDS, and just might be on my level of crazy about it. That love shows throughout the book, but still there could have been so much MORE. New commentary or observations, new anything. But really, there just wasn't and maybe that's because we have talked about this show now for so many years that there is literally nothing new left to say about it. It is often judged now based on the cultural changes we've gone through since the show aired its final episode (our first black president, the legalization of gay marriage, etc) and that's not exactly fair. On the other hand, just because the jokes made were 'normal' in the 90s does not make them okay. It is a fine line to walk, especially now that the show has no chance to change its course, what with NOT BEING IN PRODUCTION ANYMORE.

Overall, this is something that I think would be most enjoyed by fans who were there for the original run of the show, who remember the cultural impacts of the show as they happened - can you believe I made it THIS FAR without mentioning The Rachel? I know, right? I just don't think the book will read the same way for those who have come to the show much later, especially in the last five years, simply because the show doesn't come across in the same way now as it did then. Of course the show is dated, for so many things besides the major diversity and representation issues. Seriously, remember Chandler's new laptop?! Or the fact that cell phones were still in their early stages in those last couple years? I would certainly still recommend the book for anyone who loves the show, regardless of when they started watching it, but just know that it will be a slightly different experience depending on that very fact.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Advanced Reader Copy - Holiday SOS: The Life-Saving Adventures of a Traveling Doctor


I received a free digital ARC from David Haviland and Thistle Publishing in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 4 Stars

I had no idea this was even a job. I mean, I suppose had I given it any thought, I would have realized this kind of practice had to exist, but since I've never thought about it, it never occurred to me what might happen to someone who has a terrible accident or becomes deathly ill while on vacation. I now also know that, despite the perks of travelling around the world, it is a job I could never in a million years do myself. So, thank goodness there are doctors like Ben MacFarlane who are more than willing to.

I really found so many of Dr MacFarlane's patients fascinating. Some of the stories were hilarious, some were terrifying, and some were heartbreaking. As Ben is traveling back and forth, repatriating British citizens who are injured while on vacation outside the UK, we also get an understanding of the job, and a peek into his personal life as well. I felt like that was important too, so we got a glimpse of who he is as a person, not just this robotic doctor who flies in and out of the UK constantly, escorting injured travelers for the insurance companies. He seems to truly care about the patients he is escorting, and more than once having to save mid-flight. I found the way the stories were explained to be respectful to all of those most deserving of it (don't even get me started on that extra rude lady).

There was one point in the book where I teared up. Ben was escorting a sweet elderly lady back to the UK. She'd been traveling alone, and upon arrival, there was no one to meet her or stay with her at the hospital. Ben later found out that Mrs. Dean passed away two days after arriving back in England. No one was there for her funeral either. Just typing this gets me choked up, and I appreciated Ben's sentiment that he would have gone, had he known.

I appreciated the fact that this did not read like a medical textbook full of jargon that no one understands besides the doctors and nurses who might read this. It was not watered-down, but explained in a way that made sense, without being condescending. In a high-stress job like this, not only would a doctor or nurse have to be highly skilled at what they do (comes in handy when your charge suddenly takes a turn for the worst when you in the air), but must also be able to be a calming presence, able to be empathetic and comforting, to the patient who is injured and/or sick, scared, and a long way from home. Such a difficult job and, as I mentioned before, one I know unequivocally that I could not do myself. Ben has a tough job to do and not always a lot of time to do it. He gets a patient, studies the case, heads out, then has to deal with the doctors at his destination (some good, others difficult). At that point he then has to assess the patient to see if he or she is even fit to travel. Sometimes that is an immediate yes, sometimes they have to wait a few days, and sometimes the wrong decision is made. Through it all, Ben remains calm and collected, and delivers each patient here back home safely to a hospital in the UK for further evaluation and testing if necessary. Ben does not accompany patients on that leg of their journey. Once the plane has landed and he has delivered him or her to the waiting ambulance, he is off on his next adventure - whether that be traveling to an exotic location, or sleeping at home for the first time in a week.

I've never given a single solitary thought to purchasing travel insurance, but given the multitude of stories presented here, that is something I will most definitely be thinking about in the future.

As I read, time and again I thought about what a great television series this would be. It is certainly unlike all the other medical shows we see - at least, I think so. Truth be told, I got rid of cable seven years ago and haven't looked back. I don't even bother with local channels much, but this would be a show I might watch. Obviously these cases did not all happen back to back to back, but were presented as some of Ben's most dramatic/dangerous/obnoxious/etc stories. Just imagine, all season long there are these really difficult cases, the doctor almost loses a patient mid-flight on a few occasions, all kinds of good, heart-pounding drama. Then the season finale, literally everything goes as perfectly as it can, it's a totally relaxed episode, drama-free, and everyone makes it home alive. People would be so confused, it would be great.

The Collector


Rating: 4 Stars

First off, dolls are creepy AF. Always have been, always will be. I am so incredibly grateful that Eleanor has a very limited interest in dolls, so we don't have a bunch lying around the house staring at me.

This was exactly the kind of book I would have gone for in elementary school, based on the cover alone. It's creepy and the story is pretty interesting. In fact, I discovered this book when one of my students brought it to school and has been reading it for the last two weeks or so. I kept telling her to hurry and finish it, so I could borrow it. Luckily, I didn't have to wait because this week Eleanor's school had a family literacy night and the book was available for purchase at the book fair. I had to buy it, and 5th grade Sarah was not at all disappointed.

The story centers on a girl named Josie, who has to move with her mom and sister to their grandmother's house in the country after her mom loses her job in Chicago. Josie has all the typical worries as a new kid in sixth grade, and juggles those worries with the strange rules her grandma has laid out:

1. Do not bring dolls into the house
2. Never go to the house in the woods

Pretty straight forward, no?

Josie starts hanging out with this girl Vanessa, and immediately everyone stops teasing and picking on Josie. She likes this, because she thinks Vanessa is just the cooooolest, and the other kids seem to be afraid of her. As an adult of course it was pretty easy to see what role Vanessa would play in the story, even without knowing exactly how the story would get where it was heading. The notation of the locket was a pretty big hint, especially when followed later by Josie's grandmother telling Josie the story of her childhood friend, Victoria. 

I'm tellin' y'all, anyone has something antique? They're the villain or an accomplice.

This book is definitely appropriate for upper elementary/middle schoolers. There's enough creepy suspense to keep some of those on-the-fence readers interested. I personally enjoyed it and it reminded me of the books I used to read at that age. I will absolutely be reading it to my class at some point this year.