[REVIEW] The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman @EccoBooks @sarahw

Prior to reading The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman I was familiar with Nabokov’s Lolita but haven’t read it so keep in mind that these thoughts come form someone who hasn’t read Lolita. What initially drew me to The Real Lolita was the true-crime aspect of it and the parallel between the Sally Horner case and Lolita was a big plus as well.

The Real Lolita is a true-crime book focused on the kidnapping of an eleven year old girl named Sally Horner in 1948 by a man who posed as an FBI agent in order to deceive Sally into going with him. The happenings in Lolita as well as the kidnapping are connected and Weinman [the author] within this book explains the connection between the two. From the first few chapters we are introduced to the story of Sally’s kidnapping which is quite chilling and disturbing. It reads like fiction and it’s hard to believe it’s not. When you pass one hundred pages you will notice that a lot of research went into this book and I really appreciated that while reading. The book feels like an essay or a thesis defending the subject matter at hand since we do not have actual proof [in verbal form or written] that the Sally Horner case inspired Lolita. I have seen some reviews complaining that the book mainly focuses on Nabokov and his life but I would disagree and say that fair amount of chapters discuss both subjects presented to the reader. As the book title clearly says ‘The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World’ you should expect Nabokov’s origin story and analysis of early influences prior to the writing of Lolita. Weinman discusses many things and focuses on certain characters whose stories I found unnecessary although some were interesting. I want to go back to the book ‘feeling like a thesis’, Weinman discusses and shows [in a form of a handwritten note] that Nabokov knew about the Sally Horner case before the publication of Lolita but there is mystery around what exactly inspired his master novel Lolita. I would also like to discuss the cover of the book which is absolutely brilliant and showcases the book in the most perfect way. The picture is of Sally Horner on the phone with her family after being rescued – you can see the excitement in her eyes because after twenty-one months of being apart from her family she’s talking to them – and the butterflies which are a connection to Nabokov who had a passion for butterflies. In the book, Weinman points that she’s not the first person to discover the connection between Sally and Lolita because before her we had Peter Welding who wrote an article about it in a paper called Nuggets and we have a Nabokovian scholar called Alexander Dolinin who discussed the parallel between the two as well. Weinman also points out where both went wrong and corrects their mistakes by shining light on Sally Horner who, first, was a victim of a lunatic called Frank La Salle and then an inspiration for the well-known novel by Vladimir Nabokov. What particularly fascinated me was the fact that after several decades people didn’t realise that the character Dolores Haze aka Lolita is a victim of abuse and not someone to be blamed for it. I honestly wish I read Lolita before reading this book because I might’ve seen it as something that it’s not. Now, there are many things I didn’t discuss that are in this book because this review would’ve been very long but I tried my best to share key points.

Although I was familiar with Lolita and what it dealt with [a relationship between an older man and an underage girl] I did get spoiled when it came to certain happenings in the book so if you are someone who doesn’t like to get spoiled I suggest you pick up a copy of Lolita and then get The Real Lolita so you can compare both.

I would like to thank the publisher Ecco Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

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Sarah Weinman is the editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s(Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives (Penguin). She covers book publishing for Publishers Marketplace, and has written for the New York Timesthe Washington Postthe New Republicthe Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among other outlets. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Find her on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[REVIEW] I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara @FaberBooks

I came across this book a while ago and I sadly can’t remember when but I just felt attracted to it because of it being a true crime book, who doesn’t love a true crime book? Also the title I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is so chilling and so mysterious that it makes you dive into the book and find out more about it.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a story about a serial killer/rapist, active around 1975-1984. who during that time left a mark on every place he terrorized and made people sleep with one eye open. Michelle McNamara, the author, paints a chilling picture of GSK’s crimes and takes us on an investigative journey spanning many decades. What’s interesting about this case is that GSK was never caught but his crimes are still remembered. McNamara was a journalist/true crime writer and she had a true crime blog called True Crime Diary which is still up on the internet. She dedicated her time to catching GSK and finding more about him. Since McNamara was a child she became obsessed with all things crime and she describes one particular incident that sparked the fire inside of her: A crime happened near her home where a woman was murdered but there was no one to blame for the crime. In I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, McNamara goes into detail about almost every attack that was performed by The Golden State Killer and shares her findings as well as clues which might be linked to the GSK himself.

McNamara is an excellent writer, with every word she writes you are taken to i.e. 2 am, a house in a quiet neighbourhood where everyone’s  asleep except for one person. Someone is entering a house through the window with a flashlight and a knife, threatening a couple that he’ll kill them if they don’t cooperate. There are many more chilling true crimes which were commited by The Golden State Killer. The way the subject matter was presented to the reader was concise and easy to follow as you will see if you pick this book up. McNamara takes us through every scene and even reconstructs crimes so you can get a better picture. I loved the letter in the end from McNamara where she tells the facts that with the rise of technology and it advancing GSK will not go unpunished for his crimes (provided that he is still alive).

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a fascinating exploration of The Golden State Killer’s psyche as well as a well-researched true crime book worth reading.

I would like to thank the publisher Faber&Faber for sending this book my way in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written above are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

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Michelle McNamara Born Michelle Eileen McNamara April 14, 1970 Died April 21, 2016 (aged 46) Los Angeles, California U.S. Nationality American Alma mater University of Notre Dame University of Minnesota Occupation Writer Years active 2006–2016 Spouse(s) Patton Oswalt (m. 2005–2016) (her death) Children 1 Website Official website Michelle Eileen McNamara (April 14, 1970 – April 21, 2016) was an American writer and crime blogger. She was the wife of comedian Patton Oswalt. She was the author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, a true crime book about the Golden State Killer. The book was released posthumously in February 2018 and is being adapted as an HBO documentary series.

If you wish to visit her true crime blog click here.

[REVIEW] The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

While scrolling through Twitter I stumbled upon a picture of a proof copy that had an interesting cover, it had no text but only a photograph of a house which made me very curious and immediately interested in it. I went on GoodReads to read the synopsis and I was SOLD. I sadly wasn’t able to get the proof with the house on the cover but managed to get a digital copy of the book with the amazing US cover. This is a really special memoir which still haunted me even after I finished reading it.

courtesy of panmacmillan

UK proof copy of ‘The Fact of a Body’

You’re out of Law school, you have decided to take on a summer job at a law firm to help defend men accused of murder, you have made this decision with a clear mind but upon reviewing the case video tapes of the man you’re supposed to help defend you freeze and something inside you changes and what comes to your mind now is hate and instantly you want this man to die – this is exactly what happened to the author of this book, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. At that moment she begins questioning everything that happened in her life, focusing on her past and how it has shaped her as a person as well as reviewing the case more and more and trying to find out the reason why this crime happened. That is basically all you need to know before getting into this book.

‘Grief takes root inside people.’

The story alternates from the past and the present as the author tries to paint a character study of Ricky Langley, his childhood, his adolescence and what drove him to commit this heinous crime. We also get the authors story as she revisists her past and focuses on the things that have left an impact on her today life. I have to say that the way Marzano-Lesnevich makes you feel somewhat empathetic towards Ricky, particularly the way his mind works, is very well done because she doesn’t make him a monster but a human being whose mind and emotional stability are fragile (but still twisted). The authors struggles and the trigger that Ricky Langley pulled into her mind which made her question her past were very raw and honest and they made this story even more gripping. A lot of themes are discussed in this story which I feel like I’ll ruin if I reveal them so go get this book and read it. After I finished reading the book I googled Ricky Langley and seeing a video of him describing his crime made me realise that this story is very real and has made an impact on many lives.

‘I have come to believe that every family has its defining action, its defining belief. From childhood, I understood that my parents’ was this: Never look back.’

This is a haunting story which in a way is very personal and that’s what makes it a compelling read and a book which any true crime/mystery/thriller lover should read.

***Warning: This memoir features child abuse and child molestation which may be a heavy/hard read for some readers. 

I would like to thank the publisher (Flatiron Books), NetGalley and the author (Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich) for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, which will be published by Flatiron Books (Macmillan) in May 2017. It is also forthcoming from publishers internationally. A National Endowment for the Arts fellow and Rona Jaffe Award recipient, she has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Her essays appear in The New York Times, Oxford American, Iowa Review, and many other publications, and were recognized “notable” in Best American Essays 2013, 2015, and 2016. She earned her JD at Harvard and now teaches at Grub Street and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.