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Book Club No.13

Hello fellow bookworms - it's been a hot minute since my last book review post and I'm trying my best to start 2O18 off with good intentions and those good intentions involve at least one book club post a month (so so far, so good!). This time around there is a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction, true crime and total fantasy, but there's a steady theme of macabre running throughout and would you ever expect anything less from my inner goth now? You'll be pleased to know that each of these books are getting a good review off the bat I can tell you that much - I've enjoyed reading them all, for entirely different reasons, so let's get into it:

Talking with Psychopaths and Savages by Christopher Berry-Dee
The first book to talk about is something I picked up over the Christmas period. If you guys love true crime and you live in the UK and have a The Works store nearby, regularly check it because they always have hidden gems in there when it comes to this subject matter. I picked this book up as I instantly recognised the author's name as someone who knows *a lot* about true crime. Christopher Berry-Dee is criminologist and author behind many popular true crime books including Talking with Serial Killers and Dead Man Talking as well as a face who regularly gets involved in crime documentaries and TV shows.

Talking with Psychopaths and Savages takes on a slightly different spin to Berry-Dee's other books on serial killers/murderers as although it does give chapter by chapter accounts of particular individuals, it's more about the collective idea of what makes someone a psychopath and what makes someone a savage and the difference between the two. Berry-Dee details throughout the book the idea that some individuals have a lot of the "psychopathic" traits and thus are psychopaths by definition whereas other individuals - the likes of Oscar Pistorius for example - are savages as they killed but didn't go on a murder spree. It's a really interesting concept and the fact that he keeps going back to it throughout the book is very well executed and makes you feel like you truly understand what the author is trying to explain. The case studies switch from chapter to chapter from psychopath-based to savage-focused and begin to focus on an individual person or case so you fully grasp what the author means. It was interesting to not just read about "the classic" serial killers if you like and actually read about a whole host of different criminals and the lengths a criminologist has to go to try to get answers.

One thing I really liked about this book was it's easy reading. Berry-Dee has a great way of writing in a friendly manner as if it's just a friend telling you about their job down the pub - it's got a personal feel and he lets his humour, sarcasm, and sheer disbelief in some cases shine through and I think that gives it a believable edge. Some true crime authors keep it very strictly fact-based which of course, isn't a bad thing, but I quite like to see an author get riled up and say they were disgusted with an individual they met if they actually were. A couple of minor things I struggled with with this book though was the editing and the self-promotion. I tend to be a big fiction lover and don't read anywhere near as much non-fiction so I don't know if this is commonplace, but Berry-Dee name drops himself or his other texts repeatedly throughout this work. I'm all for self-promotion (I mean come on I'm a blogger), but sometimes it's unnecessarily mentioned and frequent enough that it distracted me from enjoying the book. As I mentioned, the editing got me a little too as there are a few mistakes throughout the book and although that's bound to happen to so many books, I thought it was often enough to again, distract me from enjoying reading it. Overall I'd highly recommend this book though if you like true crime but want to read something a little different that isn't just focused on the "big name" serial killers like many other texts are. You can pick up Talking with Psychopaths and Savages for £7.99 here.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Ahh, Neil Gaiman. I feel that anyone who is a fan of fiction will have read any number of Gaiman's books at some point but I always seem to discover more and more that I haven't actually read by him and The Graveyard Book is one of them. Now, you all have to bear with me when I try to give you some insight into the plot of this story because as with most Gaiman books, it is weird, wonderful, and dazzlingly complex to explain.

Generally speaking, the story opens with a man called Jack who breaks into a family home owned by the Dorian's. He is intent on murdering the family and manages to do so but one family member unknowingly escapes. A little boy, a toddler who climbed out of his crib, escapes and wanders to the local graveyard where he is discovered by a variety of local haunts. These ghosts discuss what to do with the human child but when they see the murderer Jack approaching the graveyard, they decide it's best to keep him there to ensure his safety. Once the ghosts realise the boy doesn't have any parents and no longer has a home, two of them volunteer to become his grave parents and the little boy is christened Nobody Owens (Bod for short). The story then follows Bod growing up in the graveyard. He interacts with a variety of ghostly neighbours in his community from all walks of life and also speaks to the groundskeeper Silas regularly as the only other human who knows he is living there. Silas brings him food, colouring books, and even a teacher from out of the graveyard to make sure Bod still lives a life like a normal boy as he grows up.

Saying anything more will not only ruin the story but will also be incredibly difficult to explain as it's a very twisted and very fantasty-heavy book that you simply have to read to fully understand. I really really enjoyed reading The Graveyard Book. Gaiman has a knack for describing things in such detailing without over telling you what things look or sound or smell like but, it creates enough of a vivid image in your mind. The story is so unique and there's twists and turns that anyone would find interesting and not see coming. The juxtaposition between Bod trying to lead a normal, young boy, life with all the supernatural wonder of the graveyard, the inhabitants, and his growing abilities to do things like become invisible and control people's dreams is what makes it such a gripping story. Gaiman gives each character such perfect personalities that are all so unique it keeps you glued to the pages throughout as you really can't predict what's going to happen next as the story is so far-fetched but in the best possible way. If you're a fan of young adult fiction or you just like fiction you can totally get lost in, you simply have to pick up The Graveyard Book for as little as £6.49.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
Remember back near the start of this post when I was raving about how great The Works is for finding hidden gems? Yeah, you guessed it - I picked up Helter Skelter in there too. Helter Skelter is the 1974 true crime work of Bugliosi and Gentry which went on to be the best selling true crime book in history. If you're not familiar with the title, Helter Skelter is based on Charles Manson and the wider "Manson Family" as "Helter Skelter" was the apocalyptic race war Manson was obsessed with and believed would happen (and it is also a song by The Beatles from their album White Album which again, Manson was particularly obsessed with). Bugliosi served as the prosecutor for the trial of Manson and the other "family" members and therefore recounts the trials, the investigation leading up to Manson arrest and everything in between.

I always feel like a lot of people don't like to talk about or read up on Manson anymore as it's almost as if he's "too popular" (a bit like Bundy and Dahmer) or he's not a "true killer" as the Manson history and story is more about his ability to control and manipulate others rather than him going out and murdering people. However, I still find everything surrounding the man, the murders, and the "Manson Family" quite fascinating and as he only died last November 19th 2O17 and there has been a lot of discussion in the media since about how his body should be handled etc., it made reading this all the more relevant for me in a way. Sharon Tate (one of the murder victims by the Manson Family), is also one of my favourite actresses so having the ability to look more into her death and essentially research further via this text was also something I enjoyed getting my head around.

The book is incredibly well written and provides the cold hard facts in a very easy to follow manner. Not only is it easy to follow, it again provides that personal insight and opinion from the author Bugliosi much like the aforementioned Berry-Dee does in his work. Having this impartial recount of the Manson murders with a slight drip drop of opinion splashed amongst the pages here and there makes it a great page turner. Being a true crime fan, this book provides such an insight to the whole concept of the cult and lead up to the murders and the arrests that I feel no other book I've read on Manson or documentary I've watched manages to do. Helter Skelter influenced two TV movies to be made with the same title and was also an influence for the idea behind The Strangers film, too. The book is incredibly gripping and does give you chills reading it as it helps you begin to try and get inside the mind of Charles Manson - a very troubled, complex, and sometimes downright bizarre mind that I think managed to baffle and confuse professionals for years and years after his arrest. Pick up Helter Skelter for around £8.Oo here.

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