Published by Redhook (1.24.2023)
Genres: Adult, Horror
Format: Audiobook, 464 pages
Length: 9 hours, 47 minutes
Narrator: Gregory D. Barnett, Sam Slade, Kimberly Bonny, Louis B. Jack, James Lewis, Jay Aaseng
Fade to Black is the newest hit ghost hunting reality TV show. Led by husband and wife team Matt and Claire Kirklin, it delivers weekly hauntings investigated by a dedicated team of ghost hunting experts. Episode Thirteen takes them to every ghost hunter's holy grail: the Paranormal Research Foundation. This brooding, derelict mansion holds secrets and clues about bizarre experiments that took place there in the 1970s. It's also famously haunted, and the team hopes their scientific techniques and high tech gear will prove it. But as the house begins to reveal itself to them, proof of an afterlife might not be everything Matt dreamed of. A story told in broken pieces, in tapes, journals, and correspondence, this is the story of Episode Thirteen -- and how everything went terribly, horribly wrong.
Well, that was certainly an ending.
For the most part this book was pretty dull. It’s a lot of buildup for a rather disappointing climax. First, I do want to say: The audiobook is fantastic! All my stars are for the narration. I am 100% certain I never would have made it through this book if I hadn’t been listening. It’s in epistolary format (if you want a good epistolary, just read Illuminae instead), and I did see that some readers complained about the format and that it felt like reading a script. Thankfully the audio brought a little life to it, but I still didn’t give a single shit about the characters or all of their drama.
The ending pretty much lost me, in the way that Annihilation (the movie, never read the book) did when it took a hard turn at the end. It felt out of left field and didn’t fit the atmosphere of the rest of the story, shifting from paranormal horror to outright science fiction. I actually had to go back and listen to the part again, because I wasn’t exactly sure what happened and thought I’d missed something. Okay then.
Writing style: 3/5
Cultish by Amanda Montell
Published by Harper Wave (6.15.2021)
Format: Audiobook, 309 pages
Length: 8 hours, 21 minutes
Narrator: Ann Marie Gideon
The author of the widely praised Wordslut analyzes the social science of cult influence: how cultish groups from Jonestown and Scientology to SoulCycle and social media gurus use language as the ultimate form of power.
What makes “cults” so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has . . .
Our culture tends to provide pretty flimsy answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. In Cultish, Montell argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day.
Through juicy storytelling and cutting original research, Montell exposes the verbal elements that make a wide spectrum of communities “cultish,” revealing how they affect followers of groups as notorious as Heaven’s Gate, but also how they pervade our modern start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds. Incisive and darkly funny, this enrapturing take on the curious social science of power and belief will make you hear the fanatical language of “cultish” everywhere.
This is 10/10 NOT something I would have ever picked up on my own. It’s actually only the second non-fic book I’ve ever read cover to cover in my life (the first was Half Assed by Jennette Fulda). The only reason I picked this up at all was because it was my book club’s pick of the month.
Upon starting this, I was just like “I really don’t even want to read this, why am I bothering?” and in the first couple of pages (or minutes, I was listening to the audio) I hated it. I was considering just moving on. But then, CrossFit was mentioned, and my ears perked up. I am a member of TTSL Daily (Thick Thighs Save Lives by Constantly Varied Gear) and it’s not labeled as such but it’s basically CrossFit. I love lifting weights and this has been my favorite fitness routine I’ve found. Anyway, it was compared to a cult and I was just kinda rolling my eyes like welp, guess I’m a member of a cult lmaoooo. There is a language to TTSL/CrossFit all its own and this was one of the qualifiers of being “cultish.” I was still skeptical at this point.
However, somewhere along the line, I became so hopelessly engrossed in this book that I couldn’t stop listening. (The narrator is pretty good, by the way.) When I wasn’t listening, I was thinking about it. It’s morbidly fascinating!! I’d heard of the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” but I didn’t know its origins and I had only heard of Jonestown in passing, so I actually enjoyed learning about it.
I used to be obsessed with psychology in college – I took a course and was considering the field for a while. Nothing stuck, unfortunately lol. But the psychology behind cults was fascinating to me – how language is a huge part of it, and how it creates solidarity and camaraderie. How a charismatic leader can sway people to go against their usual morals because they can wield language like a convincing weapon. This book gave insight into what lures people into cults that seem innocent at first, but may not be under the surface. There was talk of the super toxic cults like Jonestown, Heavens Gate, and Scientology; but also less toxic ones like CrossFit, Soul Cycle, and MLMs. Some of the really toxic ones had me open mouthed while learning about things that happened and the crazy shit people were made to do. So many times while I was listening I was all
It’s insane! I was also appalled by how Amazon workers were treated. Yikes.
Overall, this book was fascinating AF to me! It’s one that will stick with me, my mind keeps going back to it. It made me want to check out more cult stuff!
Writing style: 4/5