books

The Wicked Boy

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So… I actually read The Wicked Boy, written by Kate Summerscale, last year, meant to review it, and completely spaced.

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#whoops

The Wicked Boy was released in July 2016, and is a nonfiction account of an actual matricide perpetuated in Victorian London. 13-year-old Robert Coombes stabbed his mother while his father was out at sea. Summerscale carefully researched this account, and writes the details in a competent and fairly interesting manner. Did Robert have conspirators? If so, how involved were they? Why would Robert have committed the crime that he did? What happened after the murder was discovered? All aspects considered within this book.

However.

When I picked this book up, I was expecting a fictional narrative. And this work, while interesting, does not provide me with the closure that a novel could have given. In a fiction work you can come up with a specific reason – Robert was protecting his brother, for instance – for the crime. In a non-fiction, research book, no definitives can be given. While this lack of closure is because the crime actually occurred, and people are messy, as are their motivations for doing things. Going into the book with that expectation, however, resulted in my feeling sorely disappointed when it was not furnished. As such, my main criticism of the novel is not a criticism against the author; it is, instead, a warning for readers. If you’re not generally a non-fiction fan, there’s a good chance you won’t like this book.

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Expectations can make or break an experience

My other quibble with this book, is that I felt that last several chapters were unnecessary. Because Summerscale cannot provide resolution regarding the murder, she attempts to provide it by exploring the life that Robert Coombes lived afterwards, which *spoiler alert!*seems to indicate that he was able to come to terms with whatever motivations led to the matricide, and become a productive citizen. While I feel that I understand what she was trying to accomplish – maybe people can change! If provided with the appropriate tools and opportunities – it didn’t quite work for me. Perhaps if the last few chapters had been condensed, it would have worked for me. But the way it’s currently written, the ending drags on, and I certainly don’t care as much about the resolution as the author herself.

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Overall, this book was… okay. I think that true crime buffs, and non-fiction readers interested in information about England in the Victorian era will find it interesting. Intrigued and wishing it were a novel? Give it a pass. Researching middle-class crime in the Victorian era? Give it a read.

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Will you like it? Like so much in life, it depends.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? I would love to read them!

Update: How did I do in my 10 Books in 2016 Challenge?

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Um… well, I didn’t quite make it. Though I’m fairly certain I read more than 10 books before 2016 had ended, not all of them were from the list I created last August. This post will provide the 10 Books in 2016 Challenge Update: (aka, it’s now 2017, so here’s specific detail on how I did).

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  1. The Glass-Blowers By Daphne DuMaurier

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2. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

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3. Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

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4. The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

  • STATUS: Read in 2016 #yay
  • Blog post

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5. The Room: A Novel by Jonas Karlsson

  • STATUS: Did not read in 2016 #boo

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6. Odd Girl Out by Elizabeth Jane Howard

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7. Off the Page by Jodie Picoult

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8. Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming

  • STATUS: Did not read in 2016 #boo

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9. The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

  • STATUS: Did not read in 2016 #boo

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10. L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad

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In conclusion, I read 7 of the 10 books chosen for the 10 Books in 2016 Reading Challenge. I didn’t knock the challenge out of the park, but I’m happy with my results.

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How did your 2016 reading go? Or what are you aiming to achieve in 2017? I would love to hear about your accomplishments and your goals in the comments!

Fighting for Your Right to Be Who You Are

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Okay, I know the title makes it appear that this is a political post, but bear with me. I am not going to discuss our current political climate; I am going to review Walker Long’s upcoming work, Swapship Troopers:

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Swapship Troopers is available for pre-order on Amazon, slated for release on Thursday, January 19. I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of this work, and in a snapshot, guys: I highly recommend.

Swapship Troopers is a satiric take on Robert A. Heinlein’s work Starship Troopers. Private Quantrill is in the marine corps, putting his life on the line in the war against Bugs. These aren’t your regular, disgusting creepy crawlies. These bugs are gigantic alien species who can easily render even the most skilled fighters lifeless in a matter of seconds.

In addition to having their lives on the line, there is also the question of whether or not they’re doing much living. In the midst of war, there is one thing, in particular, that people tend to miss: la petite mort.

Luckily for these soldiers, there are some genetically altering drugs that allow for some fun times…

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This work is fun. You don’t have to have already read Starship Troopers in order to enjoy it (although you might enjoy the work more if you have read it; I actually cannot comment on that, since I haven’t). Yet, this book is not simply an erotic fiction; it is a piece of fiction that happens to contain erotic scenes. Due to the opportunity at first thrust upon him, and later provided to him, Quantrill learns about himself, while simultaneously having to deal with the preconceptions and expectations that come with the very idea, as well as embodiment of womanhood.

I was impressed with the manner in which Long portrayed the developing romance and Quantrill’s self-awareness, which add an element of sweetness to the story. This sweetness is juxtaposed with the brutality of the war being fought, as well as steamy sex scenes.

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#steamy

I really liked this novella. Have you read it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Glowing Comparison

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I was checking out Goodreads, as I am wont to do (especially when I have work for my actual job that almost pays me a living wage), when I came across this review for my short story “Let Down My Hair:”

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A comparison to Practical Magic? I’m flattered beyond belief right now.

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Over the moon right now

Hello 2017 + Reading Goal

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I have signed up to take the 2017 Goodreads reading challenge – my goal? 60 books during the year.

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It’s not significantly more books than I read last year, but I am hoping to focus a bit more on my writing this year. Plus, it’s more than 1 book per week, so I feel that the goal is achievable without being lazy.

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Goals: let’s get a touchdown

Are you on Goodreads? How many books are you aiming to read this year? Or what are some of your other resolutions for 2017? I would love to read your goals in the comments!

Less Interesting than Pretty Little Liars #bookreview

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I recently received and read an ARC of Rachel Bateman’s Someone Else’s Summer from Netgalley:

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I have mixed feelings about this novel. I actually really liked the plotline, though it was fairly predictable. Someone Else’s Summer follows Anna, the effortlessly beautiful, popular high school cheerleader who realizes upon the death of her sister that she has potentially lost touch with a reality that her dead sister Storm understood intimately. She discovers her sister’s list, meant to be accomplished during the summer after Storm graduates and before beginning college, until the car crash on graduation night that prematurely took her life.

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Beauty, death, road trip… it’s like an episode of a TV show on ABC family.

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Except that unlike the earnest beauties of questionable intelligence becoming embroiled in drama and solving mysteries on a popular cable network, this novel features an earnest beauty who is fucking annoying as hell.

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Give me an “A!” Give me an “N!” Give me an “N-O-Y-I-tkN-G!!”

Overall, it was difficult to feel sympathetic for Anna. And it was difficult to see why her love interest, literally obvious from the first page of the novel, was in love with her, other than her beauty.

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… which brings us to the same question as this movie: is this girl just the equivalent of a dessert to [love . If I were to sum up the interest]?
In addition to featuring an aggravating, unsympathetic protagonist, I was also not particularly a fan of the writing style. There were moments, glimpses in the writing, of the book that I had been hoping this one would be. However, overall, the writing is not quite as polished as it should be. This novel reads as a draft, that should have been further edited.

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This YA novel is okay. If I were to sum it up in one word, it would be “meh.” I like the idea of the novel, just not its’ execution. Unfortunately, I do not recommend.

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#dontrecommend

Have you read Someone Else’s Summer? Or are you planning to? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

What is Love?

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Baby don’t hurt me… Don’t hurt me… No more…

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As part of the self-imposed 10 Books in 2016 Challenge, I read Elizabeth Jane Howard’s novel Odd Girl Out.

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So glad I did. This was my first work by Elizabeth Jane Howard, and it was realistic, clever, and enjoyable. Today’s post, I plan to list out some of the pros & cons:

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*The pacing of this story actually worked very well, for me. However, some readers prefer to be shown everything, and this is a story that instead sometimes chooses to show, sometimes chooses to tell, which results in more of a leisurely stroll than a fast-paced run.

Ultimately, if you enjoy complex novels filled with realistic and slightly ambiguous characters, and you do not mind novels with a slower pace, and you enjoy stories that make you think, then I highly recommend Odd Girl Out.

4.5 out of 5 bell bottoms

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