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Book Review: Helter Skelter

April 24, 2013 3 comments

I’m not sure that I could say anything more about Helter Skelter that hasn’t been said since it was first published in 1974. It tells the story of the Manson Family and how Charles Manson orchestrated the murder of actress Sharon Tate, four of her friends, and the LaBiancas, a seemingly innocuous, if well-to-do, couple.

Instead, I’m going to talk about a criticism that was brought to me by a friend. I mentioned that I was reading Helter Skelter and his response was something to the effect of “Bugliosi is an asshole. Brilliant, but an asshole.” My gut reaction to this was “Alright, I’m not seeing it, but whatever,” so I started trying to look for something that would give me that feeling. The closest I got was that sometimes, while describing the actual Manson trial, he’ll make comments about how he felt that he had made a good argument or explain why he argued a point the way he did and that it worked. I suppose both of those could be indications that he thinks highly of himself, but it didn’t strike me as especially asshole-ish.

When reading the book, one has to remember that it was written right after the Manson trial and that while it’s easy for we of 2013 to think it’s ridiculous that anyone could ever have thought to acquit Manson, there was a real chance for that to happen–if there’s one thing Court TV has taught me, it’s that the jury doesn’t always get all the facts. Of course Bugliosi is going to insist that he made all the right calls just in case someone still doesn’t believe in the verdict.

Now, however, the idea of letting Manson or the three Family members tried with him–Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie van Houten, and Susan Atkins–is almost laughable.

Charles Manson was last up for parole in 2012 which he was obviously denied after he told the prison psychologist, “I am a very dangerous man.” He didn’t attend the parole hearing, as he usually does.

Patricia Krenwinkel’s last hearing was in 2011. It was denied, but part of the reason was because the LA DA’s office “suggested that if Krenwinkel was remorseful she would waive her parole hearings and accept her punishment.” So…in order to get paroled, she would need to stop wanting to be paroled? That reminds me of a certain Joseph Heller novel…

Leslie Van Houten was denied parole again in 2010 for the 17th time, much of the reason being that Sharon Tate’s sister is continuously fighting against any of the incarcerated Mason Family members from ever getting out of jail. She apparently still receives threats from Family members three or four times a year.

Susan Atkins, whose testimony bothered me the most with its horror (she confessed her involvement with great glee to a fellow inmate when she was being held for something else) was denied parole on September 2, 2009, then died of cancer only twenty-two days later, the first of those convicted of the Tate-LaBianca murders to do so. I was a little shocked to find out that she ended up marrying her attorney, which I feel exhibits a lack of judgement on his part.

Editor’s note: I originally stated that Rosemary LaBianca was the mother of Suzanne Struthers, which was the product of my brain seeing an S-name and Struthers and thinking of Sally Struthers. This was pointed out to me by a commenter who needs a lesson in tact and diplomacy.

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STFU, Friends

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

After reading this post on the STFU, Parents blog, I decided to perform my own social experiment to see how many of my friends I would “lose” on Facebook if I “liked” the STFU, Parents page. I figured the worst that could happen is a few people I didn’t particularly enjoy reading would unfriend me and that would be the end of it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with STFU, Parents, it’s a blog dedicated to the oversharing parents (especially new parents) tend to do about their children. Blair, the author, isn’t really talking about people who post constant updates (even though those are annoying for a different reason, in my ever-so-humble opinion), but more the parents that fall into the deepest wells of I DID NOT NEED TO SEE THAT or, my favorite parent that I want to tell to shut up, the Sanctimommy: that breed of mother who has decided that you just do not understand anything because you haven’t had a kid.

It’s a pretty tongue-in-cheek blog and I would assume that if parents took the time to read past the caustic name, they’d see that most of what THEY post probably isn’t what Blair is talking about. They’d probably agree that no one really needs to see pictures of poop or how much parents have spent on their kids for Easter. Of course, I say that not being a parent (yet), so I’m fairly certain that my opinion on the matter is invalid (though I’m 99% sure I won’t be posting pictures of my hypothetical kid’s puke on Facebook).

But back to my social experiment: I “liked” the page and saw that I had been unfriended by two people. The first of which was what I expected–someone from high school who I rarely talk to and had already blocked her feed for posting things like entire photo albums of her kid learning to eat Cheerios. I stand by my rule of “One picture is cute; fifteen pictures is ridiculous.”

The second unfriending was one I didn’t expect. A new friend-of-a-friend who, I won’t lie, I was a little excited about getting to know. She’s not a parent and she didn’t strike me as someone without a sense of humor, so it was strange. Granted, she may have unfriended me for a completely different reason, but her boyfriend hasn’t, so I obviously haven’t violated some more that required them to discuss me.

Out of almost four hundred friends, those were the only casualties–and I have quite a few parents on my list. This made me start to wonder about people and how they monitor their social networks. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the last page someone on my friends list “liked,” but here are at least two people who pay enough attention to their feeds to not only see that I had “liked” a page, but to get offended by it enough to unfriend me. Call me lazy, but I can’t bring myself to be glued that closely to Facebook.

It also made me wonder about knee-jerk reactions and why I don’t seem to have many of them, but that train of thought didn’t really get much farther than “I’m just not that kind of person.”

Book Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire)

April 17, 2013 Leave a comment

If you haven’t read A Game of Thrones or you haven’t watched the HBO series and you don’t want it spoiled for you, then I suggest you don’t keep reading after the jump. If you haven’t done either of those and you don’t care about OMG SPOILERS, feel free. You have been warned.

For those of you just tuning in who are thinking, “A Game of Thrones? What is this nonsense? I wish to read ALL THE SPOILERS,” congratulations, you’ve been under a rock since 1996. I’ll give you a brief summary anyway: A Game of Thrones is the first book in an epic fantasy series by George R.R. Martin called A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s set in a fictional land where the seasons don’t cycle through the year, but last for arbitrary amounts of time–currently the world is experiencing a very long, seven year summer, but signs are pointing to the fact that Winter Is Coming. This is a touch problematic because after a very long summer there is usually a very long, very harsh winter and as I am about sick of winter myself at this point, I can’t imagine this nonsense lasting more than the three months it takes in the real world.

The kingdom of Westeros is led by King Robert Baratheon, First of His Name, whose second hand man (the Hand of the King) has died under mysterious circumstances that no one really wants to investigate, so he travels from the capital, appropriately named King’s Landing, to the north of the Seven Kingdoms, to enlist his best childhood friend Eddard “Ned” Stark of Winterfell as the new Hand.

As fans of the genre are well aware, this is generally where all hell will break loose and this is no exception. Where this novel takes a deviation from the norm is that in most epic fantasy, very few named people actually die. Sure, there’s bound to be a war, so obviously there’s casualties, but it’s all mostly the nameless masses who fall on the enemies’ swords. Sometimes someone important will die (won’t lie–still mad at Tolkien over Kili and Fili), but generally everyone shows up for the big feast at the end.

This is your last SPOILER ALERT. Turn back now if you don’t want to know.

Read more…

Book Review: The Road

April 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: This was originally published in January 2010 and I REGRET NOTHING.

I should probably turn in my English degree along with a piece of paper that reads, “I’m sorry. I didn’t like this book. Please forgive me,” and hope that the powers that be forgive my transgression.

Seriously, though, I’ve searched through the Internet and can’t seem to find one bad review of The Road…but I just couldn’t get into it. The first time I sat down to read it, I got halfway through and stopped reading. This time, I forced myself to not put it down until I finished it. I still wasn’t impressed. I want to be impressed. I want to like this book. I really do. I just…can’t.

It’s the story of an unnamed man and his son walking through a post-apocalyptic world, down a road, toward what they hope will be a better place.

I wish I had more to add to that summary, but…that’s about it. The whole book is the rising action, then it comes to a predictable climax towards the end which is followed by a small dénouement. Most of the reviews I’ve read have spoken of how moving and personal the book is, but I just…wasn’t interested in the man or the boy. I was actually more interested in the wife/mother.

Of course I’m interested in the character that’s dead before the book even begins.

That’s the book I’d actually like to read.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage, 2006. Print. ISBN: 0307387895

Book Review: When You Reach Me

April 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: This was first posted in August 2009 and every time I pick up my eReader, I consider reading it again.

First caveat: I only picked up this book because I was talking to a friend of mine who works for Random House and asked “Any new good books coming out?” and she said, “Oh, yes, read When You Reach Me!” so I downloaded it without even reading the description.

Second caveat: Any book that repeatedly references A Wrinkle in Time automatically is going to get at least three stars from me. Just sayin’.

Third caveat: I don’t actually have one of these; I just like the word “caveat” out of principle. It’s snobbishly delicious.

So, I went into the book not having any idea what it was going to be about, just prepared for it to be good because I trust my friend’s judgement. As such, I was delightfully confused by the first few sections because the narrator, a twelve-year-old girl named Miranda is talking to someone, but I had no idea who. Luckily for me, I enjoy books that reveal themselves as you’re reading.

Which, I suppose, is inseparable from books that deal with time travel. See: Rant by Chuck Palahiuk or The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. If you enjoy this book, I suggest you read those other two just so you can see the similarities.

What pleased me most about the book is that it actually required the reader to think. Some yalit books assume that children are unable to critically think at all and instead of nurturing that ability, give the precursor to Danielle Steele level books. I’m all for getting kids to think. Easier books are good for getting kids to read, but after that, the process needs to continue, otherwise we get adults who are happy reading the same story repeated with only a change in locale.

The story itself is well told, revealing each piece of the mystery so that you discover what happened as Miranda had discovered it. The ending was somehow simultaneously happy and sad…but I’ll leave it at that rather than spoil it.

Of course, the downside (if this can be considered a downside) it also had the side effect that now I have to go buy A Wrinkle in Time…which will probably make me buy the whole series…so I guess I have some reading to do. 😉

Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me. 2009. eBook.