There’s this ongoing debate about unlikeable characters: Should you rate a book lower if it has an unlikeable or problematic character? Even if that was actually the point of the book in the first place?
This is something I still struggle with myself. The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick is a book with an unlikeable character like that. And while I don’t want to rate a book lower only because the MC isn’t a perfect person, his words an actions did have an affect on my enjoyment of the book. And if I enjoyed a book less, that means I should give it a lower rating, right? Otherwise I’m just giving a book a rating that doesn’t make sense for me.
”Only the good die young, and I’ve lived nasty.” – David Granger, The Reason You’re Alive
Dilemma’s. Before I go off on an even longer tangent, let me tell you about the premise of book. In The Reason You’re Alive, we get to know David Granger. He’s a republican army veteran that loves guns and regularly craps on how ”politically correct” the current world is. I think most of us know someone like this, and most of us don’t really like spending time with them.
However, David has an eclectic group of friends who all tolerate him, including a gay couple and a Vietnamese woman. Reading this felt a little unrealistic to me. David has very liberal opinions at times, yet still votes against the interest of his diverse group of friends? How does that make sense? Continue reading “Book Review: The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick”
I don’t know what it is about murder and cheerleading, but they are a surprisingly good combination. In her newest novel Kara Thomas managed to write one of the most compelling murder mysteries I’ve read so far this year.
Five cheerleaders in a small town die, in three separate incidents, within a month’s time. Is it a coincidence or is there something sinister going on in the town of Sunnybrook? Our protagonist is Monica Rayburn, the sister of one of the cheerleaders that died. When she finds her sister’s phone in the desk of her stepfather, she begins searching for clues about what might have led her sister, Jen, to commit suicide five years ago.
The story is primarily told from Monica’s point of view, but occasionally shifts to Jen, showing us what happened in the weeks that lead up to her death. Monica’s character is dynamic and realistic. She is appropriately angsty for a sixteen year old, but also sincere while finding out who she really is.
What I loved most about this book was how intricate the mystery was, making me shift from one suspect to the next. You know those thrillers in which every single person could have done the crime? And you just don’t know? This is exactly one of those books. As the reader, you want to crack the case as much as the main character. And while Monica is flawed and not always likeable, that makes you want to root for her anyway. Continue reading “Book Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas”
Title: Mindhunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit
Author: John Douglas & Mark Olshaker
Genre: True crime, memoir
Publication date: August 1995
“Behavior reflects personality. The best indicator of future violence is past violence. To understand the “artist”, you must study his “art”. The crime must be evaluated in its totality. There is no substitute for experience, and if you want to understand the criminal mind, you must go directly to the source and learn to decipher what he tells you. And, above all: Why + How = Who.”
True crime is my thing. I do not shy away from murder, rape, and the details that go along with it. To some people that might seem weird and twisted, but there is something about the mind of a criminal – especially serial killers – that is inherently fascinating to me.
Let this book be exactly about that. Special Agent John Douglas helped pioneer behavioural science and criminal profiling in the FBI. For 25 years, he researched killers and their modus operandi. An important part of his research was conducted speaking directly to killers about their own crimes and analysing their behaviour in the interrogation room. Continue reading “Book Review: Mindhunter by John Douglas”
Title: The Fact of a Body
Author: Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Genre: True crime, memoir
Publication date: May 16th 2017 by Flatiron Books
The Fact of a Body is one of those books that is hard to categorize: it’s part memoir, part true crime book. A disturbing story about the murder of a young boy – but also much more than that.
It’s hard to say where this story starts and where it ends. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, and she thinks her decisions and opinions are clear. She is against the death penalty. She does not want anyone to die. As the daughter of a lawyer, this is an opinion she has lived by ever since she knew what it meant.
But then she dives into the case of Ricky Langley, a pedophile and child murderer convicted of the murder on six-year-old Jeremy Guillory. She hears his voice, sees his taped confession, reads his files. And the moment his faces flashes on the screen Alexandria knows: she wants Ricky Langley to die. She is shocked by her reaction, which only makes her dig into this case deeper.
We unravel the story of Ricky, which is written in a way that it feels like a novel. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich used all the files and documents she could get her hands on to reconstruct his life. And although no facts have been altered, the author – as she says it – ‘layered her own imagination on the bare-bones record of the past to bring it to life.’
And as we unravel the story of Ricky Langley, we also unravel the painful story of Alexandria herself. We get an exceptionally intimate account of her childhood, about the sexual abuse and loss she dealt with at a young age, and about how her family dealt with these dark secrets.
Through her story, we learn how Alexandria’s past impacts her present. How the things she has been through affect her view of Ricky and the law in general. This impactful story rattled my insides, it made me feel sick and unsettled after I finished it. Yet it’s also one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Continue reading “Book Review: The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich”
Author: Sandy Day
Publication date: January 20th 2018 (first published July 2011)
Chatterbox is a poetry collection consisting of one hundred and ten poems written during a year of marriage disintegration. The poems explore a world of bewildering emotions ranging from sadness and terror to anger and enlightenment. The collection, divided in four different parts – Chattering, scattering, craving and knocking – guides you through all of these emotions.
And this is exactly the part that I loved most about this collection. Every single poem brought it’s own little piece to the puzzle, adding to the overall story being told by the author. I myself have never dealt with divorce, but that made no difference in the relatability of this collection.
Each and every poem is a separate work, but they all fit into the bigger picture of dealing with loss, betrayal, abandonment, resentment and bitterness. And that’s what makes these poems so real – it reads like the author is finally speaking up after years and years of silence. Like the author is finally allowing herself to feel emotions that she wasn’t allowed to feel before. Continue reading “Poetry Review: Chatterbox by Sandy Day”
Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: YA/Adult Fantasy, Adventure
Publication date: February 24th, 2015
Alternate Londons, dark magic, a crossdressing thief and lots of blood. V.E. Schwab completely sucked me into this novel.
A Darker Shade of Magic is one of those books that was incredibly hyped in the book community, and that’s why I was reluctant to pick it up initially. I have a history with not liking (over)hyped books, so I’ve been picking up less and less books based on the recommendation of people online and I try to go more with my gut feeling. However, I’m trying to diversify my reading this year, and since I don’t read a ton of fantasy, this seemed like the perfect book for me.
In this peculiar novel we follow Kell, a rare magician with the exceptional ability to travel between the alternate Londons. There is Red London – Kell’s home – Grey London, White London, and Black London, the last one being completely cut off from the rest of them. Kell acts as an ambassador between the Londons, carrying messages between the royal families. In his spare time, Kell smuggles little magical trinkets to Grey London, which has no magic at all.
When Kell comes across Lila, things take a turn for the worse. When a mysterious relic from Black London – a relic that should have been destroyed – reappears, Kell and Lila must do what they can to protect it from all those who wish to claim it as their own.
V.E. Schwab is a very skilled writer, that’s for sure. I tend to like really flowery and poetic writing, but Schwab’s style is clear, concise and she never uses more words than necessary. She knows how to create a detailed fantasy world without dumping tons of info on you. Her characters are flawed, multidimensional and well-rounded. Continue reading “Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab”
Title: Salt to The Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Young Adult, historical fiction
Publication date: February 2nd, 2016
It’s hard to review books that depict real, often horrific events. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is such a book. It’s a historical fiction novel based on the wreckage of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military transport ship which was sunk on the 30th of January, 1945. By one estimate, a total of 9,400 people died, which makes it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history.
Salt to the Sea is a young adult novel, very similarly written to Sepetys’ other book, Between Shades of Gray. Simple, short sentences. Even some of the characters reminded me of that book, and the story of Between Shades of Gray main character Lina is also woven into this book, albeit a bit haphazardly.
“Just when you think this war has taken everything you loved, you meet someone and realize that somehow you still have more to give.”
Because this book contains four different POV’s, it was hard for me to get into the story. We usually only stayed with one character for two or three pages, and sometimes even less. This, in combination with the simple language, made it hard for me to connect to any of the characters. Just as I was getting into one story, we were jumping to the next. And the first three quarters of the book, I had the feeling that we were still at the very beginning of the storyline. Continue reading “Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys”