Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 7. A non-fiction bestseller, 10. A book based on a real person, 13. Includes a club, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 24. Addresses a specific topic, 29. Over 500 pages long, 30. Audiobook is narrated by the author, 32. A book that intimidates you, 40. A book with photographs inside

Helter Skelter has been on my tbr longer than almost every other book in my possession, I kid you not – I brought this book on a vacation to NYC in January 2019 and remember distinctly getting stopped by TSA because they couldn’t see through the book on the scanner and oh my god it was a book about a serial killer.

What a day.

I finally just cracked and got the audiobook of Helter Skelter, as read by Vincent Bugliosi! I really enjoyed it in this format, perhaps more than I might have just reading the book, because I can hear it in his voice and it felt a bit more like a true crime podcast.

Obviously, this book is the story of the Manson Family Murders, most famously the Tate and LaBianca homicides in California. If you’re unfamiliar with the murders or the case, they are notable for having ended the 60s as people know it: free love, peace not war, drugs and all that…because the Manson “Family”, led by Charles Manson, collectively killed seven people in senseless murders under the direction of Manson and his cult rule. His tribe of vagabonds was intending to ignite “Helter Skelter”, or a race war, that (according to Manson) would eventually lead to African Americans coming to him for direction and rule. His followers literally believed him to be the second coming of Jesus Christ.

I like true crime, but I don’t think I’ve ever read true crime in its actual format. I really enjoyed The Phantom Prince, but I felt that to be more memoir-style. Helter Skelter as its lead prosecutor tells it is analytical and riddled with the law and facts. I actually liked it, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. This reminded me more of The People Vs. OJ Simpson than of the Bear Brook podcasts (quite literally the only podcast I’ve ever listened to, and well worth it). Lucky for me, I *love* The People Vs. OJ Simpson. My near obsession with that show in high school made my mom convinced I needed to be a lawyer. I just found everything about it so damn fascinating.

This is much the same, but with less mystery and more…creepy stuff. The parts of this book that focus on the family are truly disturbing. Manson is such a bizarre enigma of a man that even Bugliosi plays into it…his watch stops, and Manson smiles right at him…stuff like that. He’s a weirdo, to put it nicely, and a murderer to put it frankly. But what was even more captivating is all of the girls under his spell, and even some of the men: he must have had some charisma, some way about him that sucked in people with no direction – and never let them go. Bugliosi does a wonderful job diving into all of that.

I love hearing about how these cases affect history and the world around them, too. That’s something I think Bugliosi does well. I like to be told what makes all of this so important, because otherwise we are simply rehashing a horrible murder. Manson, however, was a product of the time, a product of the 60s – and of some really fascinating influences from the system, our system, that should cause you to think more critically about them.

This was such a bizarre case. Despite the long length of the book, I never lost interest. It was a lot, a lot of content, but everything was pertinent and interesting. There was so much that I didn’t know about the case, from the fact that Manson still had very dedicated fans even ten years ago, to the fact that the LAPD seriously bungled the evidence and everything about this case, to the very critical role the Beatles played in Manson’s ideology. Very cool stuff. I mean, not murder, but the law and the psychology of it all.

I would recommend this book, but I would specifically recommend listening to it. I believe it is only available from Audible, but it’s worth it. Bugliosi does a great job narrating his work, and it makes it feel more like a true crime podcast. I really liked it!

Have an awesome week, friends!

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 29. Over 500 pages long

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 8. Involving the art world, 9. A book that sparks joy, 14. A character with superhuman ability, 37. Set in a rural area

Wow…this. This is one of my favorite books of this year so far. And so, so unexpected. This review is going to be my crazy ramblings to my friends immediately after reading it, but somehow made (hopefully) readable – I’m here to sell you on this one! I am, however, going to completely break the usual review format because this book is extremely hard to describe.

I thought I was getting a haunted house book. Based on the side flap, that’s kind of what I was expecting. But that’s not what this is, like, at all. After the death of his father, Nate and his family return to his childhood home for a fresh start. Nate is glad his father is dead. Maddie needs new inspiration for her art, which has suddenly stopped coming to her. And their son, Oliver, is an overwhelmed empath who needs a new school and new chance to thrive socially.

Almost as soon as they arrive in their new home, though, there are strange and unexplainable occurrences. Nate sees his father everywhere, and strangers in the yard. Maddie blacks out while she creates and loses her art pieces. And Oliver makes a new friend, Jake, whose feelings he cannot see or feel like everyone else’s. This is a terribly oversimplified description of this crazy-ass book: there’s also cult shit and time travel and violence and friendship, but without ruining it for you? This is a book about a family.

Probably a great time to acknowledge that the two main characters share my SO and I’s names. I think I’ve mentioned it in a previous post, but I was book shopping with my sister last year and picked up The Book of Accidents with absolutely no knowledge of what it was. I was standing there reading the side flap and said “Oh my god, the two main characters are Maddie and Nate!” and my sister said, “Well, now you have to get it.” The rest is history. It was a little odd at first, trying to settle into it, especially because the two characters started off really resembling us…but I got used to it after a while!

I also *have* to comment on how awesome Maddie and Nate’s relationship was. It was really nice to read a horror novel with an actually healthy example of a relationship in it. These two are a team. They communicate really well. They’re individuals, but support each other in all the right ways. Incredible example of love, strength, and support that comes through right to the end. For once, the horror isn’t how horrible their spouse is to them. The relationship between both parents and Oliver? Also awesome. Which, of course, becomes a big part of the story…

All the supporting characters in this book do just that: support. They add a lot to the story, and I love how round and human they are. No character is neglected, all sides are considered. Even if it’s just Oliver’s nature to see past people’s exteriors, this story does a great job fleshing out even the most minor of characters.

The writing absolutely makes this book. The story is wild, imaginative, and very enjoyable – but without Wendig’s wit and fantastic, swirling prose, it’s just another great book. His touch tips it over the edge of great into outstanding. I described it to my friends as “Stephen King, if he respected women and had an editor with a backbone”. Basically, it’s really, really well written.

I just can’t wait for someone to read this so I can talk about it with someone – I loved this social commentary disguised as a horror novel, and you will too!! Grab a copy. It’s out in paperback now!

Have a great week!