Audiobook Review, Nonfiction, Reese Witherspoon's Book Club, True Crime

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library BookThe Library Book by Susan Orlean

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Snatched this one while catching up on my Reese Witherspoon Book Club picks. I went in blind but knew that it was nonfiction and that it had received mixed reviews.

The Library Book is exactly what it sounds like. A book about the library. And it just happened to be a book I borrowed from the library as well. It starts by telling the story of the fire that burned down the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. 400,000 books burned. Another 700,000 books were damaged by smoke and water. Was it accidental or was it arson?

Then it transitions to a bunch of history about libraries, extensive information about fire, more history about libraries, and swings back around in the end to the Los Angeles Public Library fire at the end.

I was super invested in the fire portion of the book. It started to feel like a true crime and I was totally on board. When the book transitioned to library history, I was in and out. There were pieces of information that were super interesting: how Overdrive works, how the library transitioned from a book repository into a community outreach program, etc. But I lost a little bit of interest when the story turned to how the Los Angeles Public Library was designed or its family tree of librarians.

So overall, I found myself loving some pieces and being bored by others. The parts I loved were a solid 4 stars for me, but the boring sections were 3 stars. Split down the middle, I’d give the book 3.5 stars.

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction, Mystery, True Crime

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Rust & StardustRust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw Rust & Stardust on many lists this year. The cover kept popping up everywhere. And without knowing the content, I decided to check it out from the library.

Boy, was this a hard book to read. The content was heartbreaking and extremely disturbing. Trigger alert for sexual assault. There were times when I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue reading because I found it sickening and upsetting. However, the storytelling by T. Greenwood is so fantastic that I wanted to find out what happened next.

The story is set in the late 1940’s when eleven-year-old Sally Horner is abducted by Frank LaSalle, a convict and child rapist who tricks her into thinking he is an FBI agent taking her into custody for stealing a notebook from a local store. Think Elizabeth Smart in an era with no advanced technology and archaic police work. What follows is the horrifying tale of Sally’s imprisonment, but what I did not expect were the heartwarming moments and glimpses of happiness Sally found along the way. The strangers who became friends and made her experience more bearable.

I did not care for the last hour or so of the audiobook. I didn’t understand why the last hour was included as I didn’t feel like it jived all that well with the rest of the story. Until I realized this was a true story…. I did not realize this story was based on true events until I read the Author’s Note at the end of the book. It blew me away. For ten hours, I was reading it as if it were a creation of T. Greenwood’s imagination, and while many of the details were manufactured, the overall content was reflective of events that really happened. Gut wrenching.

This book is definitely not for everybody. It is not for the faint of heart of those who cannot tolerate discussion of sexual assault, particularly of minors. But if you can get past all of that, it is a tremendous story and Sally Horner deserves for it to be told.

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Audiobook Review, Nonfiction, True Crime

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm I’m not sure how to feel about this book. I feel like I’m going to be an outlier here with an unpopular opinion. I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t love it.

A few notes about this book:
1. Michelle McNamara died before the book was complete.
2. Much of the book was pieced together by her colleagues prior to publication.
3. The Golden State Killer was not identified prior to this book being published so if you’re looking for a conclusion where an identification is made, you aren’t going to find it here.
4. A 74-yeard old man named Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested after this book was published (April 2018) and charged with many of the crimes depicted in this book. He is assumed to be the Golden State Killer although the trial is still pending.

Ok so all of that being said, my biggest issue with the book was the fact that it was very disjointed and all over the place in terms of timeline and content. It jumped around from the 1970s to the 1980s to 2010s back to 1970s… You get the gist. Which might not have been a huge problem if the story was more cohesive. However, I felt like the bulk of the book was a compilation of mini-stories or random thoughts that didn’t real tell a complete story. I found the discussion of the various crimes committed to be extremely repetitive as the killer’s MO didn’t deviate a whole lot. I’m not sure why each crime needed to be rehashed.

I guess I was expecting more “investigation” and less victim back story. And I feel like I finally got that 8 out of 10 hours into the audiobook. The last 2 hours were probably my favorite because there was more discussion about creative ways in which Michelle and other investigators dissected the known information to formulate theories. That part was superb. I would have appreciated more of the latter and less of the former.

I feel like it’s a little unfair to judge this book too harshly considering the author passed away while the book was still being written, had to be pieced together posthumously, and likely wasn’t edited in the way the author would have edited it. I’d like to think that had Michelle McNamara had an opportunity to finish it herself it would have been better.

Lastly, the entire time I read this book (having known the killer was allegedly in custody) I wanted so badly to compare the theories in the book with known information about Joseph James DeAngelo to see if the investigators’ theories were accurate. Guess I’ll have to wait for the HBO documentary that somebody will undoubtedly produce one of these days to find out!

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