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Aoife

Witty Little Knitter

I read fantasy, crime, true crime, lgbt-romance and books written by my favourite comedians. List not necessarily complete.
Sometimes I write for Bibliodaze

Currently reading

Jane Steele
Lyndsay Faye
Progress: 60 %
Die Bartholomäusnacht
Alexandre Dumas
Progress: 60/721 pages
Eastern Europe!: Everything You Need to Know About the History (and More) of a Region that Shaped Our World and Still Does
Tomek E. Jankowski
Progress: 130/595 pages
Stephen and Matilda
Jim Bradbury
Progress: 52/262 pages
Krieg und Frieden
Michael Grusemann, Leo Tolstoy
Progress: 579/1024 pages

Review: The Golden Cage

The Golden Cage (A Dance of Dragons #0.5) - Kaitlyn Davis

This is the story of Princess Speeciaal Snoowflaake in the country of Eveerything Is Hoorrible Aand We Like Voowels A Lot. Which isn't really an improvement over Every'thing is Horryble And We L'yke Apostrophes and Ys a lot since the naming conventions are not the problem I have with so many fantasy novels.

So Ourthuri is a Horrible Place. It is so horrible that the Queens get killed if their first child isn't a boy.

 

Would you like me to go into why this is an extremely stupid thing to do and an incredibly cheap plot device to show that this place is horrible?

No? I don't care. I'm going to do it anyway.

 

First: noblewomen worthy of a king don't grow on trees. Noblewomen, in general, don't grow on trees but the fact that usually not every noble family is considered high-ranking enough to provide a future Queen/the mother of the future ruler (just as Franz Ferdinand. Not the band. The Arch Duke. Even if he hadn't met a very unfortunate end, his children wouldn't have succeeded him on the throne because their mother wasn't noble enough...she wasn't even noble enough to get a space in the family-crypt which is why Franz Ferdinand and her rest somewhere else...and that was a short excursion to the house Habsburg). Killing them off, just because they didn't manage to produce an heir immediately is cliche-villain-evil and stupid.

Second: even if we assume that every noble is equal and everybody can marry the king: shouldn't a lot of noble families go 'You know what? We have this nice marriage proposal from a different noble family which is a lot less risky. We really prefer them.'

I mean there is no mention of any superstition connected to what influences the gender of children. (Along the lines of 'if she is pure enough and never has improper thoughts the child will be a boy'). They should know that if they marry their daughter to the king there is a 50% chance of her dying. So the have the choice between 'marry her to a random noble, forge some connections, perhaps gain a bit wider influence' or 'marry her to the king, possibility of gaining a lot of influence but just as likely to go back to square 0 (or even further since presumably having a daughter who 'failed' would cause a loss of prestige)'.

Yeah. There's always going to be people who try but the king in this story needed 13 wives to get a son.

Thirteen.

Henry VIII is laughing about him.

And how big is that bloody country that they have 13 noble families with daughters that are the right age to marry/not yet promised to somebody else/noble enough for a king/willing to marry their daughter to him (especially after he went through...the first 6 wives or so).

 

Having voiced my minor misgivings about some details of the world-building let me come to the plot.

Now this is a 50-page prequel-novella which means it doesn't have terribly much plot (I also need to point out that I seem to have a problem with prequel novellas in general. They might be set chronologically before the main books but they tend to be written more for the people who have already read the main books...so bear that in mind).

 

The story revolves around Princess Leena, one of the middle of the king's 12 daughters. She can breathe underwater, is unhappily in love with a palace guard (to clarify: not unhappily because he doesn't love her back, unhappily because the love to a mere palace guard is forbidden) named Mikzahooq (bless you), and is special because she is the only one who can see how horrible everything is.

Out of all these things I would have been really fascinated by the 'magically being able to breathe underwater'-bit but that's the one we learn least about. In fact, we only learn that she can do that and she wonders if she got it from her mother but doesn't even go into details about whether magic is common in this world or not.

 

What we do learn over and over again is that Leena's and bless-you's love is pure and sad and that Leena is special because everybody else is stupid.

 

[After a description of how she and her half-sisters are all sitting on thrones, dressed in fine clothes]

 

Like statuesque decorations in flowing dresses and jingling jewelery, their faces were hidden behind veils. A backdrop. Pieces of art to be admired. Leena Sighed. Of the twelve princesses, she seemed the only one uncomfortable with the whole display.

Of course. Leena quickly invents feminism. Nobody else had misgivings about that before. It can't possibly have to do the fact that nobody else has voiced those misgivings to her because the king is a tyrannical psychopath and trusting the wrong person could be fatal. Move on. Oh by the way: the veils are not made of fabric but of tiny golden chains. Oh symbolism. So subtle. Much wow.

 

 

A cage invisible to everybody it seemed except her. But it was there.

Or don't move on and keep going on about this.

 

A princess. But it was not how she saw herself. This girl was weak, demure, meant for nothing other than a life of birthing sons. Leena wanted so much more for herself.

Yes and you are the first one to think like that, my dear. When Leena is not moping about not being like the other princesses she has weird ideas about property:

Her clothes belonged to the maids that dressed her. It was their job to rifle through her drawers. And the topside of the bed belonged to the servants who snuck in every morning to carefully pull her sheets back into place and fluff the pillows. Even in her room, nothing truly belonged just to her.

Yeah. Sure.

 

What she actually bemoans here is that she doesn't have any private place to hide things. Which is a valid concern but so different from 'Strictly speaking, my pretty dresses, belong to my maids', that I do not know where to start with all the wrongness.

 

So...yeah. Plot. Leena and bless-you-guard want to escape because true love. Will they succeed? You have to read this novella to find out!

 

I have the whole series as ARC-bundle so this is going to be fun. But then the author's prose is rather nice and perhaps this just suffers from crap-prequel-syndrome.

I hope.

 

ARC provided by NetGalley.

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

The Golden Cage (A Dance of Dragons #0.5) - Kaitlyn Davis

I realized a thing: I am sick of fantasy novels where magic exists and you have stuff like dragons/talking dogs/people breathing under water and who-knows-what-else but the whole world is still terribly sexist because 'hey pseudo-medieval world! It has to be sexist because historical accuracy!'

Here the Queen gets killed when her first child is a daughter. Seriously. That is politically such a stupid move that I am going to rant about it in-depth in my actual review but now just so much:

 

I'm finished with these type of books. I will continue with series with that set-up that I already started (that's A Song of Ice and Fire and The Iron Ship basically, as well as this series because I got the whole bundle as ARC) but if I can already tell from the blurb that Women Have It Horrible Here I'm going to give the book a pass because I am so tired of it.

(And yes, at least, both ASOIAF and TIS have great female characters who do more than moan and go 'I'm not like the other women' and that used to be enough for me but by now I'm getting tired of that as well).

Review: The Baker Street Phantom

The Baker Street Phantom - Morag Young, Fabrice Bourland

In the spring of 1932, with Londoners terrorised by a series of brutal murders, the private detective agency of Messrs. Singleton and Trelawney quietly opens its doors in Bloomsbury.

The first person to call on their services is a worried Lady Arthur Conan Doyle. She tells of mysterious events at 221 Baker Street – and a premonition that the London murders signal terrible danger for mankind.

Their investigation will take our intrepid heroes into a world of séances and spirits. Aided by the most famous detective of all time, they must draw on their knowledge of the imaginary to find the perpetrators of some very real and bloody crimes before they strike again…

 

 

It almost has to be admired how the author takes an awesome idea and tells it in almost the most boring way imaginable. Because of magic characters from famous Victorian novels appear on the streets of London. There is Sherlock Holmes - which is very cool - and there are Dorian Gray, Mr. Hyde, Dracula, and Jack the Ripper (it makes sense in context even though he is not a character from a novel) -which is less cool because they just continue what they did in the novels: kill people.

How do you mess such a great idea up? Easily: you take out any conflict and therefore, any excitement. The majority of the murders have already been committed by the time the novel starts and Singleton, our hero, just reads about them in the newspaper. (Conveniently all the murders are summed up in one article, despite there being huge differences in the MO). Since the paper also mentions where the murders have been committed he immediately makes the connection between that an 'all these places are mentioned in Dracula, Dorian Gray etc.' 

Of course, that does not mean that he immediately goes 'clearly novel characters have been going round murdering people' but it doesn't take him long to get there. Shortly afterwards he attends a séance, despite not believing in the spiritual things and that one séance is enough to change his opinion on everything. Mediums are not all fake. A connection to the afterworld is possible. And not much later: the killer was probably Dracula.

And everything in the book is like this. There never is time for you to worry if the characters will get out of a dangerous situation/get somewhere in time because those are all resolved as quickly as the characters change their minds on long-held beliefs.

Talking about characters: they also couldn't save it. They remained so colourless that I could barely remember their names while reading the book.

 

ARC received from NetGalley.

Review: Cable Left, Cable Right

Cable Left, Cable Right: 94 Knitted Cables - Judith Durant

The problem with this book is that it roughly spends the same space for all the cables it describes, no matter how easy/difficult they are.

So you start off with really basic left or right-leaning cables and get about a page about it that contains the chart and some short explanation. There are even some cables that are almost the same except for the number of stitches, yet each of them gets a new page/chart/explanation.

Then the more complex ones start and they also only have the chart and a basic explanation. Suddenly you have huge charts and only a few sentences about them.

There are some cool cables in this book and I definitely will use some of them but the book had given me the impression that it would contain information about designing my own cables or, at least, adapting existing stitch-patterns and there wasn't much of that in the book.

94 cable patterns sound like a lot but, as said, that the first chapter contains a lot of very similar cables. And, considering it also doesn't go that much into depth you're probably better off with a cable-stitch dictionary.

Review: Career of Evil

Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

 

 

Cormoran Strike knows four people who might send him a leg. Though he quickly decides that it's really only three because one of them has been known to murder people and cut them to pieces but he wouldn't send these pieces to Strike.
That probably tells you a lot about Strike. Like, that he needs different friends.

I enjoyed the mystery a lot. Usually, I'm not a fan of crime-novels where the killer gets POV-chapters but here it worked really well because he was so utterly despicable. Often I feel that deep down the authors want you to admire the killer (at least a bit) for being so clever but here that's clearly not the case. Every single thought he has is just horrible (e.g. he constantly refers to his girlfriend as 'It') and I wanted to cheer every time something went not as planned.

Those chapters also did a perfect job of confusing the reader further and lead him on the wrong trail. In fact, there were so many surprising twists and turns everywhere in the book. Just like I love my crime novels.

The police were conveniently incompetent in just the right moments for Strike (and Robin) to do all the important work but I guess that is a necessary evil in a book about a private investigator if you want him to have some interesting cases.

 

The continued development of Strike's and Robin's relationship was beautiful but the Robin-Mathew drama got a bit too much for my taste. It took up a lot of space and, unlike the first two books, I failed to see anything likable in him. In the second book, he was already a jerk more often than not but when he wasn't one I could understand what Robin saw in him. Now I just wanted her to strangle him every time he did/said anything. The more he appeared, the more I hoped that he'd be gone for good in the next book.

 

Well and then there was the ending. I am perfectly fine with cliffhanger endings. I am less fine with endings that make you wonder if the last chapter is missing from your copy and that was definitely the latter.

Review: True Pretenses

True Pretenses (Lively St. Lemeston Book 2) - Rose Lerner

Through sheer force of will, Ash Cohen raised himself and his younger brother from the London slums to become the best of confidence men. He’s heartbroken to learn Rafe wants out of the life, but determined to grant his brother his wish.

It seems simple: find a lonely, wealthy woman. If he can get her to fall in love with Rafe, his brother will be set. There’s just one problem—Ash can’t take his eyes off her.

Heiress Lydia Reeve is immediately drawn to the kind, unassuming stranger who asks to tour her family’s portrait gallery. And if she married, she could use the money from her dowry for her philanthropic schemes. The attraction seems mutual and oh so serendipitous—until she realizes Ash is determined to matchmake for his younger brother.

When Lydia’s passionate kiss puts Rafe’s future at risk, Ash is forced to reveal a terrible family secret. Rafe disappears, and Lydia asks Ash to marry her instead. Leaving Ash to wonder—did he choose the perfect woman for his brother, or for himself?

Warning: Contains secrets and pies.

 

I am not a fan of 'True Love makes bad guy see the error of his ways and he redeems himself' storylines. Thankfully, this isn't really one of those. It isn't a real redemption-arc, more a self-realization arc, that works both ways. Ash and Lydia both realize several things about themselves that they already knew but were afraid to admit. Both learn that it's OK to want things for themselves. Especially Lydia learns that you shouldn't constantly second-guess what others expect of you. Both learn that they have been the overprotective older sibling a bit too long and that their little brothers can think and decide for themselvesIt is all very beautiful and everybody is delightfully reasonable most of the time.

 

It is all very beautiful and everybody is delightfully reasonable most of the time. Unfortunately, that also means that book is a bit dull at times. And I'm really torn here. For example, I really like that Lydia learns about Ash's past quite early on and decides that it doesn't matter. That is great, not only that she thinks like this but also that this reveal didn't come only at the climax. If such a major thing had been kept from her for so long, I couldn't have seen how she would have ever been able to trust him again. But by getting that over so quickly, the major obstacle to their relationship was out of the way after roughly a third of the book. 

 

Now I'm not saying that people have to be stupid for (romance) novels to work. In fact, the first Lively St. Lemeston book proves that. Nick and Phoebe are also quite reasonable but then their happiness gets threatened from the outside. For most of the book, Ash and Lydia's happiness is only threatened from the inside, they talk about it and resolve things. Which is a great sign of a healthy relationship but it also means there are long parts that mostly involve Lydia thinking about Ash while her ladyparts ache and...that is not terribly exiting. Towards the end, another obstacle appears but that gets also resolved too quickly to be that thrilling.

 

Having said all that: I still read the book in two days. I loved the characters and apart from the relationship between Ash and Lydia I also enjoyed the relationship both had with their brothers. (Siblings who genuinely care but also screw up occasionally are my favourite thing). The minor characters are all beautifully written (and some already appeared in Sweet Disorder so it was fun seeing them again). Still, it dragged on several occasions and I doubt I'll re-read it anytime, soon.

(Belated) Merry Christmas

 

Hopefully, you had some nicer presents ;)

I haven't been around much recently...or well...the 2nd half of this year really but I was in a terribly reading slump due to being very busy with uni/reading fanfiction instead of books for a while and eventually doing anything but reading, not even fanfic. However, it seems to have passed. I hope. 

 

(Totally unrelated but I can 'feel vampire' about this. Thank you booklikes, thank you. I always wanted to be able to do that :D)

 

Back to books. And Christmas. I got the new Cormoran Strike novel.

 

I also won Listen to the Moon in a Christmas-giveaway. It's the 3rd book in Rose Lerner's Lively St. Lemeston series. I squeed about the first book (Sweet Disorder, which coincidentally is just on sale) already a few times, and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

(I also got an amazon voucher, that was, strictly speaking, a birthday present but my friends only gave it to me on our Christmas brunch because we didn't meet up earlier. Now I have to decide what I want. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH).

 

I got my mom a DVD of An Then There Were None, the version with (among others) Richard Attenborough and Gert Fröbe. We already watched it and enjoyed it a lot. Now we're looking forward to watching the BBC-miniseries with Aidan Turner, Charles Dance and Miranda Richardson that the BBC is currently airing. Because one can never watch too much Agatha Christie.

 

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, as well :)

DNF-Review: Vermisst

Vermisst: Avi Avraham ermittelt - Dror Mishani, D.A. Mishani, Markus Lemke

Original Title: תיק נעדר

English Title:  The Missing File

 

Detective Avraham Avraham must find a teenage boy who has vanished from his quiet suburban neighborhood.

Police detective Avraham Avraham knows that when a crime is committed in his sleepy suburb of Tel Aviv, there is little need for a complex investigation. There are no serial killers or kidnappings here. The perpetrator is usually the neighbor, the uncle, or the father. As he has learned, the simplest explanation is always the answer.

But his theory is challenged when a sixteen-year-old boy named Ofer Sharabi disappears without a trace while on his way to school one morning. There is no simple explanation, and Avraham's ordered world is consumed by the unimaginable perplexity of the case.

The more he finds out about the boy and his circumstances, the further out of reach the truth seems to be. Avraham's best lead is Ofer's older neighbor and tutor, Ze'ev Avni. Avni has information that sheds new light on the case—and makes him a likely suspect. But will the neighbor's strange story save the investigation?

 

(I listened to the German audiobook)

 

The book opens with a worried mother coming to Avraham because her son went missing. He calms her down by telling her that in Israel there are no crime novels like those of Agatha Christie because there are no really complicated crimes. Israel has no serial killers or rapists. If a crime was committed it was usually a relative or a neighbor, but more often there's no crime at all and her son will probably be back soon.

 

Let me go through all the things wrong with this statement.

 

One: There are no crime novels in Israel.

 

How about Batya Gur? Shulamit Lapid? Uri Adelman? All prize-winning authors but nope. There are totally no Israeli crime novels. The author knows this because that one time he passed through the crime section of the bookstore, thinking about how much he hates the genre, he didn't notice any.

 

Two: You go for 'serial killers and rapists' and then use Agatha Christie as an example? 

 

Like...have you even read the Wikipedia article on her (or crime novels in general)? Or did you once watch an episode of Law & Order, concluded that crime-fiction in any form/medium is shit and you can do better? If you wanted to go for the 'dark and gritty realism' direction you could, at least, have said Henning Mankell. Believe me, people will have heard of him. Not only crime-readers. (Of course I rather re-read The White Lioness which for me is the shittiest Mankell-novel than touch another book by Mishani with a ten foot pole...but that's another issue).

 

 

Three: It usually was a relative or a neighbor. Everywhere. Israel is not the special snowflake.  Murders are mostly committed for stupid reasons by...not very bright people who are then caught quickly. If the crime literature of any country would accurately represent the actual crimes committed in this country we had fewer books about murderers who left rare jazz recordings in their victim's CD players and more short-stories in which the police just followed the bloody footsteps at the crime scene and then knocked at the door of the house they led to.

However, crime literature would be a lot less interesting then, so get off your high horse.

 

That was the first chapter. I should have just quit then because it did not get better. It always felt like I'm reading a crime novel by an author who really hates crime novels. At one point Avraham explains that his hobby is reading crime novels/watching crime dramas and explaining how wrong the investigator in it is. Not in the 'you would have to face consequences after using your service weapon like this' or the 'you're ruining the crime scene' way (which is something some other fictional detectives do occasionally and which is honestly also bloody annoying). No, he thinks most of the time detectives from books and TV arrest the wrong person because...because they are stupid and Avraham's shining intelligence eclipses them all? Because reasons? Whatever.

 

Yeah. Way to shit on an entire genre. Well done.

 

Avraham's shining intelligence btw makes him convinced that he just has to ask the boy's mother the right question (he doesn't know yet) and then she will give him an answer and everything will be immediately totally clear to him.

That is how real police work works. No this is not a trope only found in shitty crime fiction. We are above this despicable genre, don't you know?

 

Also Avraham barely does any investigating. He mostly sulks that his colleagues, who do actually do some work find out things. Like the fact that the missing boy's sister has Down Syndrome and then he wonders why the parents always talked about her like she was 'a normal child'. I kid you not.

 

DNF at ~60%

 

 

 

Review: Jefferson Blythe, Esquire

Jefferson Blythe, Esquire - Josh Lanyon

After his first relationship goes disastrously awry, Jeff Blythe uses his savings to tour Europe—the old-fashioned way. Armed with his grandfather's 1960 copy of Esquire's Europe in Style, Jeff sets off looking for adventure but finds much, much more than he bargained for...

In London, dodging questions from shady criminals about a mysterious package he most certainly does not have is simple. Losing the gunmen who are convinced he's someone else is not. And when George, an old friend, offers him help—and a place to stay, and perhaps something more—things become complicated.

Is George really who he seems? And is Jeff finally ready to act on his attraction?

From Paris to Rome and back again, Jeff and George fall for each other, hard, while quite literally running for their lives. But trusting George at his word may leave Jeff vulnerable—in more ways than one.

 

 

I love cozy crime novels. I am aware that it's not the genre with the most amount of realism. Most of the amateur sleuths would end up arrested or getting killed if they did the things cozy heroes/heroines did. But I don't really care because cozies are fun. Still my suspension of disbelief is only going to stretch so far. Amateur sleuth solving a case in which somebody killed his relative to inherit/business partner to not share the profits/anything else small scale? Yeah.
Amateur sleuth getting involved with the Russian mafia?

 

This just does not work. He would have been dead after five minutes...or considering Jefferson has a severe case of too stupid to live perhaps more five seconds.

Because considering he knows that there are people out there who want to kill him, he spends an awful amount of time wandering lonely streets (not paying attention to his surroundings because he is contemplating the nature of existence or something), opening doors without checking who is behind them and refusing to take the chance of putting an entire ocean between himself and the people who are after him.

Yeah. All this happens while he's doing a trip through Europe but even after he got kidnapped, watched somebody get shot, got nearly killed himself and had a close encounter with a mafia boss he doesn't want to go back to the States.

He's on a journey of self-discovery, you know. And that is important...and I guess discovering you're dead is a kind of self-discovery as well.

 

 

Oh and also George. He can't leave because George is in London. Which is another problem I have with this book.

I usually enjoyed Lanyon's crime-plots but even if I wasn't that overwhelmed, the characters made up for that.

Here. Not so much.

The chemistry between George and Jeff is non-existent.

(much more convincing than the thought of Jeff and George being happy together)

 

Their backstory is that George once confessed his feelings for Jeff to him, but Jeff wasn't willing to admit to his feelings so he said some very hurtful things, George moved to a different continent and they didn't talk for four years. Now they meet again and we are told that they again/still have feelings for each other but I didn't see it. All I saw was Jeff constantly ignoring George's requests to drop a topic/leave him alone and George apparently not knowing Jeff at all and acting like he knows better than Jeff what he wants.

(I do get his 'You have only just accepted to yourself that you're gay, you should not immediately jump into a relationship'-argument but they also have a conversation that - paraphrased - goes like this: 'Now that you're out you should screw around a bit.' - 'I have no interest in screwing around. I had no interest in screwing around when I still tried to tell myself I was straight. This has not changed.' - 'Go screw around. I did it and

therefore you must want it as well for my experience is valid for everybody and I know everything better.')

All I got from them was two people who might still have feelings for a memory of somebody that they were projecting on the actual somebody, but that person had already changed so much in the meantime that they were very different from that memory.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 60%.

Jane Steele  - Lyndsay Faye

I love this a lot. I want to quote just about every other sentence because they are so hilarious/beautiful/both.

 

But: Jane keeps referring to all the murders she committed when from today's point of view only one would be considered one. The other were manslaughter, accidents or even self-defence. Now the law in Victorian times was obviously harsher and they might not have distinguished that much (and anyway, the one no-discussions-murder would have sealed her fate anyway) but I would still expect her to think about that and e.g. go 'I did not mean to kill him. He attacked me, I defended myself.' She might still come to the conclusion that it doesn't make a difference because different morality in the old times or whatever but I still sort of expect her to at least ask that question.

There's even a witness to the very clear-cut self-defense and she refers to it as 'murder' in his presence but he never points out 'yeah...well if you hadn't done this we would probably all be dead now'. That's just a bit odd.

Review: The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century - Sarah Miller

Here’s middle-grade nonfiction that reads like a thriller. With murder, court battles, and sensational newspaper headlines, the story of Lizzie Borden is compulsively readable and perfect for the Common Core.

Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.

In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie’s arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets under way, a gripping portrait of a woman and a town emerges.

With inserts featuring period photos and newspaper clippings—and, yes, images from the murder scene—readers will devour this nonfiction book that reads like fiction.

 

First: In case the blurb did not make it completely clear: this book is about the trial. Of course, the first chapters are about the murder, the events leading up to it and how it was discovered etc. but  the majority deals with the court proceedings. It also does not try to convince the reader that Lizzie Borden or anybody else is guilty. It just gives you the bare facts. And it does that quite well. Occasionally I had problems keeping up with the many names but I always have problems with that (and I was in a reading-slump, which meant that I took quite long breaks in between reading which also can't have helped). So it did give me a good overview over the bare facts. 

 

However: It did not read like a thriller...or any kind of fiction. I mean trials in real life, even spectacular ones like Lizzie Borden's, usually aren't as exciting as those on TV. A lot of it is, in fact, a bit dull. Now I'm not blaming the author for not spicing things up but I do feel that the advertising blurb makes a lot of promises the book doesn't keep. I also don't feel like a read 'a gripping portrait of a woman and town'. I read a book about Lizzie Borden's trial. It did, indeed, inform me about it but nothing more.

 

If you have a specific interest in this case, this book is certainly a good investment. It does state the facts clearly and the author does not have an agenda. As said she neither tries to convince you of Lizzie's guilt nor her innocence. If you're more into true crime non-fiction in general, you can probably give it a pass (unless you're very much into the legal bits/court proceedings and such).

 

ARC provided by NetGalley

Review: Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel - Jeffrey Cranor, Joseph Fink

The good news: this book captures the spirit of the podcast very well. And while Cecil's voice is a major factor in my love for the show I didn't miss it that much. I think it helped that it isn't simply a radio-show that's written down but features different characters and just has some short interlude chapters in which Cecil hosts. (And despite that there's still enough of Cecil, Carlos and all the other regulars).

The bad news: For me Night Vale works a lot better in 30-minute podcast segments. Reading a book, that's set in a world, where the rules of logic don't apply at all, is just very frustrating. I enjoy listening to the utter craziness that is Night Vale but if I read about people who are trying to get to a place but can't because things are incredibly weird, and then in the end manage after all because they do something utterly weird...I almost feel cheated. Like an author has written himself in a corner and then pulls something random out of his hat to solve the problem.

Except of course the rules of Night Vale are, that there are no rules and podcast-episodes got resolved into similarly weird manners so it's not bad writing. Still it just didn't work for me. I think it might have been the length more than the fact that it was a different medium. A collection of short stories might have worked better for me than a long one where one weirdness gets piled onto another.

 

ARC received by NetGalley.

 

Review: Murder in Whitechapel

The Judas Reflections: Murder In Whitechapel - Aiden James, Michelle Wright

Emmanuel Ortiz holds an ancient and dark secret...
His real name is Judas Iscariot.
Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, Judas' disguise as Emmanuel does little to ease his eternal loneliness. Having recovered nine of his thirty blood coins, his focus is not yet on redemption for his treacherous role in the betrayal of Jesus Christ.

Distractions come easily for the rich entrepreneur and sometimes sleuth who presently resides in England, 1888. Fascinated by the spate of murders in London's poverty stricken Whitechapel, Emmanuel soon realizes the killings resemble others he is familiar with, and the bloody signature of killing and taunts speaks to the unholy talents of yet another immortal...an enemy from long ago.

This knowledge fuels his determination to track and apprehend the infamous Jack the Ripper at any cost.

With the backdrop of a Victorian Society, rigid and moralistic, along with the plight of those less fortunate, Emmanuel seeks to align himself with Scotland Yard. With the help of his immortal pal, Roderick Cooley, and by pretending to be an American private investigator interested in the horrific prostitute killings, he sets out to stop the senseless bloodshed. But, has he bitten off more than he can chew, by immersing himself in the slums and disease of the Ripper's hunting grounds?

As the mystery unfolds it becomes the ultimate test...not only of his abilities as an immortal, but also of his very soul.

 

This book has an amazing premise with an execution that is...lacking. The book is just all over the place.

Judas thinks once he found the 30 silver coins his immortality will end and he will age normally. Judas tells a friend that a major injury might still kill him. Judas suddenly knows that a beheading will certainly kill him. 

It makes sense that immortality doesn't come with a manual, but that was just odd. A clear explanation of what he knows for sure and what he suspects would have been nice (that would have been an occasion where I hadn't minded a bit of infodumping...the author clearly isn't averse to it since he also told us the life-story of several completely irrelevant characters).

 

There is some good stuff as well: Judas has a fellow immortal friend who had the misfortune of not looking like a healthy, middle-aged men. He has to disguise his paleness and his eyes constantly, but still sticks out so much that he's met with some suspicion. That's just a nice detail that isn't included in many stories about immortality (even nicer would have been if the main character would have had to deal with that problem...)

 

But the rest...Judas feels like a failed try at an unreliable narrator. He says he cares und is looking for redemption but then imports opium and sells it to illegal opium dens (he also imports "cotton, gold, diamonds, tea, spices" no where did that come from?

 

he does change his opinion on the opium but not a word about the other stuff). 

There was a weird jumping back and forth between extremes going on. He can't do anything for the people in the East End. He throws money at them. Child labour sucks but happens. He feels bad about getting others in trouble. He thinks it's mostly their fault anyway...it felt like reading the First Person narration of about five different people. And not only when it come to his (lack of) guilt: the first time they get an incredibly vague description of a guy who might be the Ripper Judas immediately thinks that this sounds like a fellow immortal whom he knows to be violent and who hates woman. And then he suddenly doesn't even consider other possibilities. No, it just has to be him...later he gets a second description, that also matches and then he thinks 'Previously I had doubts but now I was sure it had to be him.' You had doubts? When?

Also he talks a lot about how this immortal is much stronger than him and he could never beat him in a fight (except a duel. Perhaps...oh ffs I'm tired of listing all the contradictions in this book). But he never explains why. It doesn't seem to be a simple case of 'he's a better fighter'. Somehow Judas considers him totally out of his league because...because...whatever

 

It might have made some sense if he'd been an older immortal, but he's almost 1000 years younger than Judas so what makes him so special? No idea.

 

I understand that the beginning of a series needs to leave some questions open but there were too many things that just did not make sense at all.

 

Which is sad because the bits that dealt with Judas's guilt over betraying Jesus were actually done really well (AND CONSISTENT) and showed glimpses of how this could have been a really good book but alas...

 

Review Copy provided by the Curiosity Quill Press.

 

Review: Lessons in Desire

Lessons in Desire - Charlie Cochrane

With the recent series of college murders behind him, Cambridge Fellow Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, if only he can persuade Orlando Coppersmith to leave the security of the college and come with him. Orlando is a quiet man who prefers academic life to venturing out into the world. Within the confines of their rooms at the university, it's easy to hide the fact that he and Jonty are far more than friends. But the desire to spend more time alone with the man he loves is an impossible lure to resist. When a brutal murder occurs at the hotel where they're staying, the two young men are once more drawn into the investigation. The race to catch the killer gets complicated by the victim's son, Ainslie, a man who seems to find Orlando too attractive to resist. Can Stewart and Coppersmith keep Ainslie at bay, keep their affair clandestine, and solve the crime?

 

(That blurb is btw so not what happens in the book but whatever)

 

This was...nice. Not bad but not great either. The mystery was OK, but one throwaway line made it really easy to figure out parts of it. There was still enough to keep me guessing.

I didn't get at all why it was necessary to have parts of the story told from Mathew's point of view. I'm pretty sure that all the other books from the series, I've read so far, were just written from Orlando's and Jonty's POV and I really don't understand why it was changed here. It added nothing and they were honestly done rather sloppily mid-chapter.

 

There is a rather widespread trope on cozies that is 'the police have somebody as their main suspect and the amateur sleuths just refuse to believe that this person did it' and I honestly don't think it was executed that well here. I can buy this if the suspect is somebody the main characters have known for a long time but here they only just met him but still Jonty never wavers in his conviction that Mathew didn't do it. Even Orland isn't convinced, but Jonty ignores that. 

I also found Jonty's behaviour questionable in regards to their relationship in general. It was like he was willing to accept that Orlando needed time to get over his past traumas, but Jonty would decide how much time that was. He was pressing him to talk about things at several occasions, including one time that felt more like emotional blackmail. That was even worse because the question he asked then was 'Why did your father kill himself' which really is just morbid curiosity on his part. I get why making Orlando talk about his childhood in general would be helpful, but that? Not so much.

(Also: his 'only penetrative sex is real sex'-views? Ugh)

 

Reading progress update: I've read 60 out of 721 pages.

Die Bartholomäusnacht - Alexandre Dumas

This German translation just gave us the word Kotzbombenelement. I am not sure what that's supposed to mean.

Free Books!

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Jennifer Blake has put 13 of her books up for free on amazon till October 4th. I don't know any of her work but have been informed that she writes bodice-rippers, a genre I have always been curious about (perhaps a bit morbidly curious ^^). Perhaps somebody else here as well.