A Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century, by John Brewer

20798428One April evening in 1779, Martha Ray, the pretty mistress of a famous aristocrat, was shot dead at point-blank range by a young clergyman who then attempted to take his own life. Instead he was arrested, tried and hanged. In this fascinating new book, John Brewer, a leading historian of eighteenth-century England, asks what this peculiar little story was all about. Then as now, crimes of passion were not uncommon, and the story had the hallmarks of a great scandal–yet fiction and fact mingled confusingly in all the accounts, and the case was hardly deemed appropriate material for real history. (from Goodreads)

I had zero expectations with this book, since I mostly bought it because I liked the picture in the cover  and because it was super cheap. I barely read the dust jacket synopsis, so I wasn’t even sure if it was either a fiction or non-fiction book. Impulsive purchase at its finest. So it was a very pleasant surprise to realise that I was actually liking it very much and that it was right up my alley.

Parting from the murder of Martha Ray, mistress of the Earl of Sandwich, by James Hackman, Brewer introduces us to these protagonists, their place in London’s Georgian society and how  the murder and their role in the event were interpreted by their contemporaries and during the subsequent centuries.

I liked the way the author sets every account made of these events in their cultural context, expliciting why certain interpretations and treatments of them and their protagonists were favored at certain times, how and why some manufactured letters became little less than “historical documents”, influencing later accounts of this story and how the concept that history has of itself varies through time and affects other literary and pseudo-historical genres.

It also made me reflect in the way our culture and moral values as a society permeate our own interpretations of events in our own time and how we see and judge past times, and how we should approach said times to try to get a closer comprehension to the way those events were perceived contemporarily.

I found this article by the author that more or less sums up the events of the murder and hints some of the things that he expands in the book, in case I got you interested in the book and/or subject.

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Locke & Key series, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez

A brutal and tragic event drives the Locke family from their home in California to the relative safety of their ancestral estate in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, an old house with powerful keys and fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. As siblings Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke discover the secrets of the old house, they also find that it’s home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all… (from Goodreads)

I was mostly convinced to give it a chance because of the art, which is absolutely gorgeous, but I wasn’t expecting to go beyond the first volume. Plot twist, I ended up reading the entire series. The genre was definitely out of my comfort zone (is mostly catalogued as horror, but also as fantasy, which might explain why I endure it?) but the concept of the keys was very interesting, and I kept reading to know more of their story and getting excited each time a new one appeared.

I gave each book a rating of either 3 or 4, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.  

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell

28356582Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything. (from Goodreads)

I’m not sure I could pinpoint  what I enjoyed from it. It took me a bit to get into it, reading it in little pieces, through a couple of weeks, but after the first quarter of the book I seriously commit to it and finished it in a couple of days. I guess I just needed to let myself immerse in it.

Considering I was constantly comparing it with the Harry Potter series and all the fanfiction I’ve been reading within that world, I guess one of the things that I liked the most was that the narrator changed from chapter to chapter, so even though Simon is obviously the main character, all the other relevant ones get a say in this and that was quite refreshing. I mean, there are many of us HP fans who love the series but consider that Harry gets a bit annoying, and how much more interesting it would be if we’d got some chapters written from the point of view of any other? The chosen ones can be a bit insufferable.

I also liked the way things turned out in the end. I could predict some of the things that were happening, but I didn’t expect at all how it would end for Simon. I wouldn’t said I’m versed in this genre, but for my little experience, the ending sort of broke the mold.

Even though Carry on stands alone and doesn’t require having read Fangirl in advance(*), I did reread it so I’d refresh my memories of Simon and friends, because when I first read the book I honestly didn’t pay much attention to those parts, as I was more interested in Cat’s storyline. This second time, I read Fangirl with a completely different “agenda”, sort to speak, due to my recent interest in fanfiction and my intention to get into Carry On.

I think I’ll most likely keep reading the series. The second book is expeted to be released later this year. 

 

(*) I think, in fact, reading Fangirl in advance was detrimental for me. Some of the problems I had at the beginning of the book were because I was trying to read it as if it actually were Cat’s work of fanfiction. So when Simon, more or less, explains to the reader things that happened in his previous years of school, I couldn’t help but thinking “Wouldn’t Simon Snow’s readers already know all of this? Why would a fanfic author repeat and remind the readers all these things they already know?”. Then I thought maybe this wasn’t Cat’s fanfic, maybe this was Gemma Leslie’s work. That wouldn’t explain either why the original author would remind constantly all these episodes that occurred in previous books. In the end, I decided to stop questioning every flashback and about that time was when I began to enjoy the book xD

Fortunately, the answers were awaiting me in the Author’s Note at the end of the book 🙂

The Sky is Falling, by Sidney Sheldon

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Washington TV anchorwoman Dana Evans suspects the accidents befalling the rich Winthrop family, killing all five members, were murders. Like Chicken Little and the sky falling, she chases clues across the world to unravel an international conspiracy. The inheritance goes to charity, so money is not the motive.

Her Sarajevo ward Kemal gets expelled, a prosthetic arm, then often naps afternoons under care of kindly new housekeeper. Unseen agents follow her, bug hotel rooms, while an evil mastermind voice overhears taped conversations and supervises regular secret auctions, inviting armed wealthy customers. Witnesses and informants die before, and after meetings. Friends become foes, nobody can be trusted. (from Goodreads)

The only thing enjoyed of this book was finishing it, and taking it out of my to-read pile.

I found it completely uninspired, with null literary value. I didn’t care about the story and couldn’t care any less for any of the characters as they didn’t come out not even remotely as real people, I felt they had unidimensional, completely flat personalities. It reminded me of those bad action movies that air here on Saturday afternoons on tv.

I personally wouldn’t say that I “hated” it, but I didn’t like it at all. I was always prejudiced against this author, for whatever reason, so I never felt enthralled to read his works. The one thing this book accomplished was to confirm my prejudice. Maybe he has better works, but I honestly don’t care to find out. 

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

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Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives. (from Goodreads)

I knew beforehand that I’d like the book, because I liked the series. It was very pleasant to see that it was very well adapted! Although, after all this time (I’ve haven’t watched the first season since it aired) I might have forgotten all the minutiae of the adaptation, I could remember very well a lot of scenes as I revived them through the book. The downside of this is that there were no surprises at all, since I already knew every single plotwist and revelation.

I really liked the book, and I totally recommend it. Although I think I enjoyed the series more (probably just because it was my first approach to the story. I’m sure that Sam Heughan has nothing to do with it)

(LIES!)

No one writes to the Colonel, by Gabriel García Márquez

41059627 Set in the decaying Colombian town of Macondo, the Colonel is scraping together the money for food and medicine. It is the Colonel’s rooster that gives him hope for a better future as it has become a symbol of defiance in the face of despair.

Don’t know what happened last week -college, more likely- but I completely forgot to publish here. Well, it’s not like someone is reading…

Anyway…

The Colonel is waiting for a letter. He’s been waiting for this letter for years, and will probably wait for many more… Or maybe not, it could arrive any day, now.

This letter, if arrived, would mean they’d asigned him, finally, a pension for his services in the army. This letter would mean that he could, finally, have a more dignified life, a less desperate economic situation for his ill wife and himself. For now, all he has is his endless patience, and a rooster. This rooster belonged to his deceased son, and it’s promised to make him, and many other people, a fortune in the cockfighting ring, in some months from now. So he waits, just a few more weeks and all his problem will be solved…

This short novel reminded me a lot of the movie Zama (adapted from the homonym novel by Antonio Di Benedetto*), not because of the plot, but because it depicts the sloth slow  movement of bureaucracy. Slow to the point of hopelessness. And for being such a short novel, it really gave me a lot to despair.

*which I haven’t read, but I hope I will.

Helix, by Sara’s Girl

Seven months after the end of the war, Harry is feeling lost. Fortunately, he is about to be offered an unexpected and sparkling chance to find himself again.

Because I’m still such a tourist in the fanfic world, I thought it would be better for me to follow some recommendations, instead of diving into the pool not knowing yet how to stay afloat. So, I joined a “book club” group at Facebook, and read the August list, which included this work.

In this fic, Harry, Ron and Hermione are back to school for their last year of education, after spending the summer helping to rebuild the ruins left by the Battle of Hogwarts. And the same did Draco Malfoy, who during the process of reconstruction and the first months of school had detached himself from everyone and, to Harry’s eyes, seemed to merely exist, not caring for much. This troubles Harry and he wants to approach to him, talk to him, but doesn’t know how. The opportunity arises when, after an incident that drove to a bit of a fight during a Potions class, McGonagall reprimands them both and put them in detention. Their punish consists in taking care of some very delicate magical snails and make sure they mate and lay their eggs. The mating process happens only during the frozen nights of december, in the proximity of the lake, and they must spend practically the entire month babysitting these creatures, learning to coexist together like adults.

This is an advent fiction, so everything happens in 25 or so days. It was a very fun concept, and a very entertaining reading, but I couldn’t entirely let pass the notion that in less than 25 days, they basically fall in love and Harry even fantasizes with them moving in together. I mean… I could understand that they might have an underlying attraction or feelings for each other and all those days spent together moved things forward, but they were just beginning to acknowledge their feelings when Harry was basically dreaming of marrying Draco. Whoa, dude, slow down.

Anyway… Despite that,  I did really like and enjoy this fic so very much, and do recommend it. The story is very heartwarming and fluffy and angsty and smutty and all the good things. It also has a lot of Hagrid, which is much appreciated, and even a glimpse of Neville/Luna, which was cute. It can be read and downloaded here

Oh! Unusual mandatory pet: Solomon, the frost snail. And about that: at the end of the month, when there were discussions about the selected fics, it was brought up by the admin that this author in particular seems to be fond of unusual pets, so that would explain why seemed to be one in every single thing I read, although the first one I noticed was written by a different author.