Review: “Chain Saw Confidential” by Gunnar Hansen

A review by Brit.

In the eyes of many horror fans, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the greatest movies within the genre. It was released in 1974 and was quickly renowned for its craftsmanship and surprisingly bloodless violence. It was hated as much as it was loved. And in the form of Chain Saw Confidential, the one taking on the telling of the film’s origin story (and the reckoning of its legacy) is Gunnar Hansen. Who better than Leatherface himself to take on this muddy tale of dead chickens, melted film prints and runaway eight hour makeup chair sessions?

This book is largely an oral history of the making of Massacre, from the origins in the head of cigar-chomping director Tobe Hooper to the placement of the film in the Museum of Modern Art (and the scathing reviews that choice inspired). Helpfully, the story is also organized in the order of the actual movie’s plot. Hansen’s perspective is somewhat limited due to his starring role in the film. But he interviews cast and crew members extensively, openly admitting when details are inconsistent or if something has been completely forgotten. Add in thoughts about the movie from figures like John Landis (director of An American Werewolf in London) and it’s a very fun ride.

There are two reasons why I did not give this book five stars. The first is that readers who are inherently interested in horror and/or the filmmaking process itself will have a much better experience reading this book than those who are not. It’s undeniable. I’m a huge fan of Massacre, so naturally I enjoyed hearing about the nitty-gritty details about chicken bones and poor set insulation.The average reader may not care to hear about the post-production money distribution web of confusion that happened after the movie took off.

The second reason is that some readers may find Hansen’s treatise on horror at the end of the book tiring. It’s understandable that he has strong feelings on horror being connected to violence in American culture. But it’s 2017, and this debate now largely takes place only in academic and highly political circles. Even if you have no plans to watch Massacre for yourself, this book is still a good testament to the power of research and desire to tell the “real story” of how a legendary phenomenon came to be. Hansen writes in a wry voice that often reminded me of my grandfather. He’s exactly the kind of storyteller to take on this twisted, fun story.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick

A review by Amanda.

Scrappy Little Nobody is Anna Kendrick’s first foray as a published author. Readers may recognize Kendrick from her roles in movies such as Pitch Perfect, Up In The Air, Trolls, the Twilight Saga, and so much more. She’s famous for her forthright manner and acerbic wit, in interviews and on social media alike. Her autobiography is a collection of unique experiences, amusing and awkward anecdotes, and sprinkled with pertinent life advice from which many young ladies could benefit. She includes childhood memories, the struggles of an aspiring actress new to Los Angeles, hilarity on film sets (complete with some light name dropping), and everything in between. Her stories are poignant, humorous, and mildly self-deprecating.

Kendrick’s writing highlights her vibrant personality. The stories flow well, beginning in her childhood, introducing us to her family and showing readers what life was like growing up in Portland, Maine. Love and respect for her family, and gratitude for their support and sacrifices are featured throughout. This keeps the book feeling grounded in reality amongst tales of her celebrity encounters and the surreal experience of attending the Oscars. Readers will find Kendrick relatable and open. Her honesty about her faults could easily have felt forced or sanctimonious but is instead completely genuine.

Full disclosure: I was fortunate enough to catch Kendrick’s book tour in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I received a copy of her book with my paid ticket to the event, as did everyone who attended. While I have been an admirer of her work in film for a few years, I did not know what to expect from her as an author. Her writing drew me in with her humor and approachability. I especially appreciated her candor about her love life and the serious advice that she imparts as a result of one such experience. Her frank talk about her anxiety and insecurities is invigorating and relatable. The timeline flows smoothly, with occasional jumps back to the present or an aside to the reader. She expertly tantalizes readers with a bit of celebrity gossip but handles it with great respect for those she names, and usually places herself in the more embarrassing light. I would recommend this book to anyone who is familiar with Kendrick from her movies or social media, and to those who are looking for an entertaining non-fiction read. Kendrick does not hold back in terms of strong language and does talk about some sexual encounters, although not explicitly. Mature teenagers should handle the content just fine.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Of Foreign Build: From Corporate Girl To Sea-Gypsy Woman” by Jackie Perry

Of Foreign Build by Jackie PerryA review by Julie.

I would like to thank the author for allowing Fangirls Read It First to review Of Foreign Build: From Corporate Girl To Sea Gypsy Woman.

This novel is a memoir written by author Jackie Perry as a part of the healing process for losing someone close to her. Jackie loses the person she loves and is understandably devastated. She meets her now husband, Noel, and they decide to travel the world on a boat. When they begin their journey, Jackie is full of self-doubt and realizes life will never be the same. The boat crashes within 24 hours which makes her doubt their ability to survive in this new world. Despite her doubts, Jackie and Noel continue to travel around the world and soon she starts losing the fear of a new life and begins recovering from her loss. The author encounters and overcomes several challenges in this nautical, testosterone filled world to become a captain and maritime teacher, ultimately finding herself.

I chose to read this book because the summary sounded great. Jackie’s way of dealing with grief in a unique way, finding and marrying a new love, and traveling around the world in a boat had me intrigued. In reality, it is filled with stories from port after port. The author did not include much in the way of descriptions and glossed over parts of the story that could have made it interesting. If you enjoy boating and understand or appreciate all of the nautical talk that took place, this book could definitely be for you. Unfortunately I found it boring, making it very difficult to even complete.

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars.

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Fangirl Book Club Pick of the Month: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl StrayedEvery month, our club votes on the book that we will read for that month. This month, the Fangirls Read It First book club voted to read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.

Spoiler-­free Synopsis:

Twenty-two year old Cheryl Strayed is struggling. Her overwhelming grief over her mother’s death, her family’s emotional distance, and her failing marriage have sent her to the brink of personal destruction. Four years later, she makes the impulsive, life-changing decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. More than a thousand miles of trail, crossing through California, Oregon, and Washington, the PCT is not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. It is, however, just what Cheryl needs to get back to herself.

Fangirls’ Analysis:

March’s hostess chose this book for the club to vote on because it is an inspirational and true story about a woman confronting her demons and challenging herself both physically and emotionally. Club members voted for it because they had seen so much about the movie, because it had been on their TBR (To Be Read) list, and because they are fans of journey and travel stories.

What We Liked:

Club members enjoyed Cheryl’s no-nonsense approach to the gritty details of the hike – descriptions of her toenails falling off, for example. The author did not appear to sugarcoat anything about her experiences on the Pacific Crest Trail, or in her personal life that lead to her impulsive decision. The landscapes were brought to life vividly, and the story flowed well between past and present. We also appreciated that Cheryl didn’t live a “cookie cutter” life. She made a series of poor choices that led to her downfall. We find it admirable that Cheryl was able to recognize and acknowledge her mistakes and take drastic measures to correct her life. Her openness was refreshing and lacking the wallowing, pity-seeking tone that can be found in similar stories. There were several aspects of Cheryl’s life that members found themselves relating to, like the distance in her family after the loss of her mother, wanting to be alone with her grief, and the problems in her marriage.

What We Didn’t Like:

Some members felt that the story weighed too heavily on the physical journey. We would have liked to know more about Cheryl’s life leading up to her mother’s death and before her decision to leave on the hike. One member felt that Cheryl might have been more likable if they had gotten to know more about her.

Fangirl Rating: 4/5 stars

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