Tag Archives: book

Wisconsin Murders by August Derleth

4 stars

Published in 1968, Wisconsin Murders: An Enquiry into Mayhem and Homicide in the Midwest by August Derleth recounts 16 Wisconsin murders, most of which took place in the 1800s. The victims (and murderers) range considerably, from kidnapped children to spurned former lovers to seeming strangers. A surprisingly high number involve poison. The author clearly did his research and frequently quotes from newspapers of the day. Each chapter begins with the murder, names the suspect who eventually went to trial, and concludes with the result of the trial. Sentencing varied considerably, as did claims of guilt, innocence, or insanity. 

I personally found the author the best part of the book. The maxim ‘guilty until proven innocent’ clearly did not appeal much to him. ‘Guilty and anyone who says different doesn’t know what they are talking about including the misguided jury’ might be a better term. He frequently spurns psychologists and the insanity plea, mocks “modern” criminal justice reform, and bewails the lack of a death penalty in Wisconsin. You really have to appreciate his out and out gumption while reading. (That or you won’t make it far.) 

While a strong variety, this is a very random collection of murders and I really wonder what the criteria for inclusion were. 

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi

I’m a sucker for all things Pride and Prejudice and thankfully have good friends who know this and lend me their copies of the latest P&P retellings before they’ve even read it…

And you know, this was a pretty excellent retelling. But not my new favorite.  

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi takes Pride and Prejudice, modernizes it, and re-imagines it in a hood in Brooklyn. 17-year-old Zuri Benitez is proud of her Afro-Latino heritage, her large family, and her corner of the world. But the world around her is changing. When the house across the street gets bulldozed and rebuilt into a McMansion by the wealthy Darcy family, Zuri views the snobbish Darius Darcy as everything wrong with the change. But as she begins applying for college and experiencing the world outside of her hood, Zuri’s opinions shift as she grapples with what really makes a place home.

The author does a good job translating the socioeconomic realities of Pride and Prejudice into a modern setting with Pride. The 5 Benitez sisters, the landlady’s nephew Colin who will inherit the place, the street savvy Warren with his smooth talking ways, all convert easily to this new world. 

Pride also holds its own with interspersed spoken word poetry and a deeply poetic (okay, often over-the-top) writing style. 

However…Zuri Benitez is a really annoying character. She has a chip on her shoulder and it is firmly embedded in her personality. While the plot uses her naive confidence to create some depth and character change, it prevented me from liking her as a character. And 300 pages adds up when you cannot stand the main character. Zuri’s world may expand throughout the story but she never loses her pride, and unfortunately pride is a stand-in here for judgmentalism and general rudeness. 

But as much as Zuri doesn’t change, we get even less form the purported Mr. Darcy of the piece, Darius Darcy. In fact, the reader gets basically nothing from Darius. I guess that is the reason the author drops “Prejudice” from the title. He is a part – but only one part – of Zuri’s discovery of the world outside her hood. But he doesn’t change. We get glimpses of deeper personality, like the reason his family moved in the first place, but then Zuri intrudes again. This is her story and her life. Which in some regard, I applaud. But this is also a Pride and Prejudice retelling, excuse me, “remix.” You don’t just drop the character who arguably goes through the most change. 

This book reaches for something great and brushes it. I really liked where the author was going. Unfortunately, I don’t think she makes it. The characters need to finish their character change. Otherwise, you’re leaving the reader with a character only slightly less judgmental and unlikable than when we met her. Which, of course, might be all part of some greater, meta-theme I’m totally missing. I’ll keep an open mind. I just feel like this could have been the next Pride and Prejudice and because it dared so greatly, it also feels extra painful that it misses so greatly. 


A Delightful Day

I think Tuesday/Thursdays are going to be my favorite days. At least, today turned out to be really fun. Here are some highlights: 

  • On my way to school, a homeless man told me I was beautiful! (In full disclosure, he also asked me for apple juice so he might have been just buttering me up.) 
  • I made a new friend! (Not the homeless man, though he did ask for my number.) 
  • I got free pizza at lunch.
  • I won a Starbucks gift card! (Won might be too strong a word. I was given it because I got cold called on twice my first day of classes and the lady at the Lexis Advance training was very sympathetic.) 
  • I wore my hair in a low bun all day and it STAYED! (Yay perms!) 
  • I read a book for fun between classes called Loyalty and Legislative Action: A Survey of Activity by the New York State Legislature 1919-1949 by Lawrence H. Chamberlain and it was so unexpectedly good I gave it 5 stars. 
  • My roommate bought me KIMCHI so I got to eat that with my dinner.  

All in all, a delightful day. 


Coolest Sign Ever!

Look what my volunteers gave me! It is homemade, too! 


Tuesday Teaser #TuesdayBookBlog

Tuesday teaser is a weekly bookish meme hosted by http://www.booksandabeat.com

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two or three *teaser* sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful not to include spoilers ~ make sure what you share doesn’t give to much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others.

Share the title and the author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR list if they like your teasers!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is more than a sentence or two but it cracked me up….

“Bucket had started his criminal career in Braas…There, he had gotten together with some like-minded peers and started the motorcycle club called The Violence. Bucket was the leader; he decided which newsstand was to be robbed of cigarettes next. He was the one who had chosen the name – The Violence, in English, not Swedish. And he was the one who unfortunately asked his girlfriend Isabella to sew the name of the motorcycle club onto ten newly stolen leather jackets. Isabella had never really learned to spell properly at school, not in Swedish, and certainly not in English.
The result was that Isabella sewed
The Violins on the jackets instead. As the rest of the club members had had similar academic success, nobody in the group noticed the mistake.” (page 79)


Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent

I stumbled upon Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent while browsing at a local library and I am so glad I did. The book was surprisingly charming and adorable while also handling real life issues in a believable way. 

The plot follows 14-year-old Joseph Calderaro, Korean by birth but raised Italian by his adopted parents in New Jersey. He doesn’t fee like he belongs in either world. When his social studies teacher assigns an essay about heritage, Joseph struggles to merge his two worlds and discover who he truly is. 

The book’s main focus is adoption, but also balances the struggles of middle school, girls, and the meaning of family. I like that the ending doesn’t get corny and wrap up with a perfectly written essay or something. I really thought it would. While it has a “happy” ending, Joseph’s struggles are never underplayed or overplayed. They were realistic. He is a middle school kid who just wants to figure out where he comes from. 

I definitely recommend this one for older grade school/middle school readers and anyone interested in adoption, Korean/Italian culture, or just a good, “coming of age” story. 


Geek Girl by Holly Smale

I am kind of surprised Geek Girl by Holly Smale ended up on my to-read  list; generally, I don’t go out of my way to mark fluffy, Young Adult books as “gotta find this.” However, someone must have tipped me off, because this book ended up being a charming and hilarious read! 

Plot: Harriet Manners is a geek. She knows this because she looked it up in the dictionary that she keeps by her bed. Her fashion sense is non-existent and she has all of one friend at school. When a modeling agency offers to make her their latest star, she jumps at the chance to have a “Cinderella moment” and become someone new. Does she have what it takes to go from geek to chic? 

Thoughts: I giggled my way through this entire book. Harriet Manners is horrendously awkward, socially inept, and utterly fun. She is surrounded by a crew of quirky, fun characters. While this is a “typical” transformation story, it also isn’t at all. I expected angst as Harriet becomes ‘someone new,’ but Harriet basically remains herself throughout the story. The book has a great message about being yourself but isn’t heavy-handed with it. And did I mention Geek Girl was funny? (My disclaimer here is that every time I read something out loud to share my amusement, my sister just stared at me blankly…so it might not be quite as hilarious as I thought. But it probably is and she just didn’t have a sense of humor last night.) 

The book is clean and perfectly appropriate for the targeted Middle School readers (or, y’know, non-Middle School readers. Like me.) 

My only complaint is that there is this sort of half-developed romance that could have been a cute addition but falls flat. Otherwise, quite a pleasant, fluffy read.