Vladimir Nabokov and the Real Lolita

Title: The Real Lolita
Author: Sarah Weinman
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: September 11th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 320 pages

I have never read Lolita or any of Vladimir Nabokov’s other works. I didn’t know Lolita was based on a true story about the abduction of a young girl named Sally Horner in 1948. Around this time, Vladimir Nabokov was working on a novel that he was struggling to finish. Lolita was the novel that was almost not. Nabokov himself was a mysterious author. He didn’t want the real life inspiration he used for the novel to be traced or discussed in scholarly works. He also didn’t want his own life to be written about at length. Nabokov lived through daunting times in history including the Russian revolution and World War II. He certainly had his secrets.

Sarah Weinman bases her book, The Real Lolita, on her own research. She studied Nabokov’s works, writings, letters and diaries. She read the few biographies there on Nabokov and Lolita several times to try and make sense of what Nabokov was trying to say. I enjoy doing research on authors myself so I loved The Real Lolita. There is something fascinating about when an author uses real life stories or experiences in their work.

Weinman’s The Real Lolita focuses mostly on Sally Horner. Horner was kidnapped at the age of 11 in Camden, New Jersey, once considered to be the ideal American town. Now Camden has one of the the highest crime rates in the country. During Horner’s time, child molestation was not commonly discussed or even aware of by many people. When Horner’s mother received the call one afternoon from a man, who identified himself as a parent from Horner’s school inviting her on a family trip to the Atlantic City, she would most likely not have thought it could be a child predator intent to harm her child. The man, Frank La Salle, spied Horner in a department store a few weeks prior. He convinced her he worked with the FBI and would not tell her mom or the police about the notebook she stole from the store if she went with him. He did not take her at this time because she was surrounded by several friends that had dared her to steal the notebook. Instead, he called her mother and convinced her to bring Horner to the bus station. Horner didn’t want to get in trouble so she did as was told. Horner spent 21 months traveling with him around the country as he completely brainwashed her into staying with him. He convinced those living around them that they were father and daughter. A neighbor in Dallas, Texas was suspicious of their relationship. She convinces Horner to confess the true nature of her relationship with La Salle. The neighbor called the authorities for help and Horner was returned to her mother.

Sally Horner, age 9
Photo: Camden County Historical Society

Press releases all over the Northeast are given after Horner is found. Several years later, Horner is involved in a car crash and dies instantly. It is during this time that Vladimir Nabakov is following her story. According to Weinman, he is piecing together Lolita, which becomes a #1 bestseller on the New York Times List in 1958. Nabakov wrote several pieces that involved an adult man with a young female child, with Lolita being the most famous piece he wrote. Lolita is written as a romance novel as are his other works with a similar topic. Instead of seeing Humbert Humbert (Lolita’s captor) as the predator he is, Nabakov seems to encourage readers to have pity on him. One of the primary reasons Weinman conducted her research is to discourage readers from embracing his novel and works that are similar in content.

Weinman wonders why he focuses on this particular topic. After conducting thorough research, she finds that he had affairs with several of his college age students, but does not find any evidence that he abused children. The Real Lolita brings light to Sally Horner’s story and the truth about the cost of abuse done to children.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)
Sarah Weinman
Photo: CrimeReads

From the author’s website:

Sarah Weinman is the author of The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World, which was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, BuzzFeed, The National PostLiterary Hub, and Vulture, and won the Arthur Ellis Award for Excellence in Crime Writing. She also edited the anthologies Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s (Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives(Penguin).

Weinman, currently a contributing editor and columnist at CrimeReads, has written for the New York TimesVanity Fair, the Washington PostTopic, New York, the New Republicthe Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among other outlets, while her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and numerous anthologies. Weinman also writes the “Crime Lady” newsletter, covering crime fiction, true crime, and all points in between.

She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Subscribe to the The Crime Lady newsletter Lady by Sarah Weinman

Murder She Wrote

I haven’t blogged in over a month. Summer has been busy with my daughter’s schedule and I have been busy reading, of course. I read several thrillers/true crime books that I am excited to share about. If you haven’t noticed, I am a slow reader so takes me forever to finish a novel and then write a review. In between all of that is my everyday life plus I am always looking for new material to read. I have also been listening to several podcasts related to one of my favorite subjects-true crime. I’ll also catch you up on what I’ve been watching on Netflix. Don’t forget that Stranger Things premieres with new episodes on Thursday, July 4th!

Feel free to share your most recent reads in the comments and your own thoughts about the books I review!

Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: May 29th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 368 pages

I was not a huge fan of The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware so I wasn’t sure if I would like The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I ended up enjoying this mystery novel much more. Critics have called Ruth Ware this generation’s “Agatha Christie” which I can see why. Ware isn’t one of my all time favorite writers, but if I am looking for a good mystery her writing doesn’t disappoint.

Hal is a young woman who lives on her own and makes a living by being a fortune teller. She receives a letter one day that states she is the recipient of a large inheritance. Hal was not aware that she had family left. Her mother never mentioned family while she was alive and she does not know who her father is. She makes a visit to Trepassen house and soon has more questions than answers. Family secrets are here and she must figure out the mystery before her own life is at stake.

4 Bookworms (Great Read)

From the publisher:
Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children.

Find her on twitter at www.twitter.com/ruthwarewriter, on facebook at www.facebook.com/ruthwarewriter or via her website – www.ruthware.com

Title: An Anonymous Girl
Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 8th, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 375 pages

Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by Dr. Shields as a way to earn cash by answering a few questions. Farris finds herself entangled by Dr. Shields as she continues to visit and answer questions. Does Dr. Shields know more about Farris then she lets on? Farris’s guilt and paranoia continues to grow. Questions of morals and truth haunt her which leads her to realize she hasn’t truly left her past behind.

I enjoyed An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanen more than their debut novel together, The Wife Between Us. An Anonymous Girl is a stunning psychological thriller that will leave readers guessing until the very end and is one my favorite reads of the summer.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

From the author’s website: Greer Hendricks is the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between UsThe Wife Between Us has been optioned for film by Amblin Entertainment, with Greer and her co-author, Sarah Pekkanen, hired to write the screenplay. An Anonymous Girl has been optioned for television, with Greer and Sarah tapped to executive produce. Prior to becoming a novelist, Greer served as Vice President and Senior Editor at Simon & Schuster. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Allure, and Publishers Weekly. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children. Read more at www.greerhendricks.com

From the author’s website: Sarah Pekkanen is the author of The Ever After, The Perfect Neighbors, Things You Won’t Say, Catching Air, The Best of Us, The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat, and These Girls.  Sarah Pekkanen is also the co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl, both co-written with Greer Hendricks. Pekkanen is the mother of three young boys.
Her website is www.sarahpekkanen.com and please find her on Facebook Instagram and Twitter @sarahpekkanen!

Title: True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray
Author: James Renner
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: May 24th, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Length: 300 pages

I loved reading True Crime Addict. The author, James Renner, has several personal reasons as to why he is obsessed with true crime. His grandfather is a known child pedophile in their family. This leaves scars on him. Renner’s son starts having serious behavioral problems in school. Does his son carry the similar traits as his great-grandfather or is just his own paranoia? He discusses this in detail. A young girl named Amy Mihaljevic that he falls in love with as a child goes missing in his home state of Ohio. Renner himself was nearly abducted in the local park. He decides as an adult to build a career as a journalist.

Renner takes the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Test as an adult. His results are similar to that of Ted Bundy’s, but his psychologist tells him not to worry as many cops and CEOS would score the same, including Donald Trump.

After being fired by a newspaper due to worries over a lawsuit for writing a story about senator Kevin Coughlin, Renner found himself drawn to writing true crime stories again which led to his obsession with Maura Murray.

Maura Murray, a UMass student, disappeared one day in 2004 out in rural New Hampshire. Her car was wrecked and nearby neighbors called to inform the police. By the time the police arrived to the scene, Murray had gone missing. Prior to leaving, she returned her nursing scrubs and informed her professors that there was a death in the family, even though the statement was not true. She packed her belongings in boxes and left an email on top of them that states her boyfriend was cheating on her. She had credit card fraud and identity theft associated with her name. Renner discusses the possibility that she started over with a new life and the wreck was on purpose and used for distraction. He also discusses the possibility she was driving in tandem with another driver and they rescued her. Her ex-fiance, Bill Rausch, was known to be controlling and jealous. According to a mutual friend, Murray was pregnant and looking for a way to escape so she wouldn’t have to share custody with Rausch. Murray has never been found. Renner goes into detail about her case and what possibly could have happened to Murray.

4 Bookworms (Great Read)

From the author’s website: James Renner is mostly known for his true-crime journalism. As a reporter for Cleveland Scene, he uncovered new clues and suspects in the cold-case murder of Amy Mihaljevic. His work led to the successful closure of the Tina Harmon case in 2009. He spent months researching the Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus abductions when the girls were still missing and is haunted by the fact that he had Castro’s name in his notes. His true crime writing has been featured in the Best American Crime Reporting anthology. His selection was the first true crime article to use a dream sequence as a narrative device. Read more at

Follow his podcast, The Philosophy of Crime.

Title: For Better and Worse: A Novel
Author: Margot Hunt
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: December 11, 2018
Format: Paperback
Length: 336 pages

For Better and Worse was a fast paced read for me. Will and Natalie Clark bonded together as a couple in law school. They wondered if they could ever pull off the perfect murder. At first it was a joke between them as law students. Will never thought his wife would actually try to murder anyone until a secret came out in the community that put her young son at risk. Will must now protect his family from the community’s suspicions and police involvement.

Margot Hunt’s novel has all the ingredients for a thriller- an unhappily married couple with secrets, an innocent child put at risk and a popular, beloved leader in the community with secrets of their own. Hunt’s novel is somewhat cliche, but in a situation realistic enough that it draws the reader in. The novel is thought provoking and the reader wonders what choices they would have made in a similar situation.

4 Bookworms (Great Read)

From the author’s website: Margot Hunt is the pseudonym of a bestselling writer of twelve previous novels. Her work has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews. Best Friends forever is her first psychological thriller.  Her new book, For Better and Worse, was released in December 2018. Read more at

Title Green River, Running Red
Author: Ann Rule
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: September 28th, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Length: 436 pages

From the Goodreads website: In her most personal and provocative book to date, the #1 bestselling master of true crime presents “her long-awaited definitive narrative of the brutal and senseless crimes that haunted the Seattle area for decades” (Publishers Weekly). This is the extraordinary true story of the most prolific serial killer the nation had ever seen — a case involving more than forty-nine female victims, two decades of intense investigative work…and one unrelenting killer who not only attended Ann Rule’s book signings but lived less than a mile away from her home.

Ann Rule was one of the best American true crime authors. Rule started as a Seattle policewoman and has a background in psychology and criminology. Her novels go in great detail about each crime scene and the background/history of each convicted murderer. Green River, Running Red is no different. The serial murder took advantage of prostitutes and runaways-women that were highly at risk. What is amazing is that he was able to get away with the crimes for so long and lead a normal life. No one in his life suspected that he was the Green River killer. He graduated high school and worked the same job for decades. His wife was known as a nice woman in the community. The serial killer did not have many friends, but no one at the time thought it was odd. He kept to himself. Ann Rule always writes in a way that the reader can understand how someone with his profile can be overlooked and gives logical reason for why police sometimes make human errors.

4 Bookworms (Great Read)

From the author’s website: Ann Rule was regarded by many as the foremost true crime writer in America, and the author responsible for the genre as it exists today. She came to her career with a solid background in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Both her grandfather and her uncle were Michigan sheriffs, her cousin was a Prosecuting Attorney and another uncle was the Medical Examiner. Raised in that environment, she grew up wanting to work in law enforcement herself. She is a former Seattle Policewoman, former caseworker for the Washington State Department of Public Assistance, former student intern at the Oregon State Training School for Girls.  

She and William “Bill” Rule  had four children, and early in their marriage they lived in El Paso, Texas, and Youngstown, New York, before settling in the Seattle area. They raised their family in Bellevue, Washington, and Des Moines, Washington. Bill was also a writer, but he died of Melanoma at age 43 in 1975 before he could realize his dream of writing “The Great American Novel.”  (The couple divorced a few years before Bill died.) Bill Rule taught creative writing at Foster High School in Tukwila,Washington.

During the last years of her life, Ann lived in Seahurst, Washington, on the shores of Puget Sound. She was the mother of four and also a grandmother. 

Read more about the author and her works at

Title: A Simple Favor
Author: Darcey Bell
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Format: Paperback
Length: 298 pages

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell was an enjoyable read. I was not a fan of any of the characters. All of them are unlikeable and have selfish agendas which makes an interesting plot. Stephanie, mommy blogger, is on the search for her missing friend Emily. She asked Stephanie to pick up her son from school and hasn’t been in contact with family or friends since. Stephanie assumes she had a breakdown due to her highly demanding career in NYC. Her body is eventually found in the lake where her family retreats to each summer. The plot thickens as secrets about Emily’s past are revealed. The novel was made into a movie starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.

3 Bookworms (Good Read)

From the Goodreads website: Darcey Bell was born in 1981 and raised on a dairy farm in western Iowa. She is a preschool teacher in Chicago. A Simple Favor is her first novel.


Crime Junkie is an amazing, addictive podcast hosted by Ashley Flowers and her friend/producer Brit. Each week they cover a crime they have researched/heard about or that a listener has suggested. RollingStone named Crime Junkie as one of the best podcasts of 2018. For more information, click here.

From the website:

My Favorite Murder is the hit true crime comedy podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Since its inception in early 2016, the show has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic, interactive “Murderino” fan base who come out in droves for their sold-out shows worldwide.

A top 10 regular on iTunes’ comedy podcast chart, My Favorite Murder has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Atlantic, Nylon and Rolling Stone magazine.

Aside from being avid true crime enthusiasts, Karen Kilgariff is a stand-up comedian and television writer and Georgia Hardstark is a writer and host for the Cooking Channel.

For more information, click here.

From the website:
Debra Newell is a successful interior designer. She meets John Meehan, a handsome man who seems to check all the boxes: attentive, available, just back from a year in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. But her family doesn’t like John, and they get entangled in an increasingly complex web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times. For more information, click here.


Bird Box is a Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock. My husband and I sat down to watch Bird Box last night as we have heard so much about it. The film has to be one of the creepiest I’ve seen in awhile. Bird Box is the idea of what would happen if a virus was spread throughout earth causing people to want to injure themselves. The virus is passed by looking into the person’s eyes that is infected. I do not want to spoil the film so I won’t reveal any more details, but it is a film worth watching.

Madeline McCann, 3 years old, disappeared on May 3rd 2007 from the Praia de Luz resort apartment in Portugal. Her parents were at the resort restaurant( about 160 feet away) checking on their children every half hour. The apartment was accessible by the resort or street. At 10pm, Kate McCann, mother of Madeline McCann, went to check on the children and noticed Madeline was missing. Netflix’s documentary goes into detail about the disappearance of Madeleine and theories of what could have happened to her.