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review 2019-12-26 09:51
Fun historical facts with a twisted sense of humour #history #non-fiction
The Peasants' Revolting Crimes - Terry Deary

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early paperback copy of this book, which I freely chose to read and review.

I’ve long been intrigued by the Horrible Stories books, and when I saw the stage adaptation advertised, I thought about going to watch it, but, as was the case with the books, I never managed to make it. That, combined with my interest in criminology and the criminal justice system (particularly in the UK), made this book irresistible. Although I cannot compare it to other books by the authors, and must warn readers that this is, by no means, a book written for children, I loved every minute of it. The author combines a vast number of UK historical (and also some fairly recent) facts and events, with a sharp sense of humour (beware of papercuts. Some pages ooze poison), to the point of crossing into satire and black humour at times. The book shows a great deal of social consciousness, and it is far from complacent with the status quo, but it does not glamorise “peasant criminals” either, and it is harsh on popular renderings of figures like the highway man (Dick Turpin is no favourite), or pirates.

Deary explains in his introduction (after three great quotes, and there are many interspersed throughout the whole text) the reason why he decided to write the book. He observes that most books and plays featuring crimes and criminals tend to focus on kings, queens, or high-class characters (he mentions Shakespeare and Agatha Christie), and even when lower class characters are mentioned, they are not usually the heroes or the central figures. And he decided it was time to put it right, and here we have this book. As you can imagine from the topic and the title, there is plenty of gore, detailed accounts of crimes and punishments, and despite the wit and the humour, I’d recommend caution to those who prefer a truly light and cosy read.

The book is divided into seven chapters, plus the already mentioned introduction, an epilogue where the author reflects upon how little things have changed over the years, and an index. The chapters seem to follow a chronological order (or almost): Norman Nastiness, Mediaeval Misery, Wild Women, Tudor Twisters, Sinful Stuarts, Quaint Crimes, Georgian Jokers and Victorian Villains, but the content of each individual chapter is not limited to the period mentioned in the title. Every chapter focuses on a series of crimes that became typified or described for the first time in that historical period, or that are particularly associated with it, but Deary sometimes includes recent examples of similar crimes, to compare the types of punishment then and now or to emphasise the fact that history repeats itself and certain things change little, if at all. Although I have lived in the UK for many years, I didn’t grow up here, and there are periods of UK history and events that I’m not familiar with, so it is likely that much of the information that was new to me might be well-known to others, but the author presents it in an entertaining and seemingly light-hearted manner (I’d leave that to readers’ interpretation and opinion) that makes the book impossible to put down and the facts stick in one’s mind.

I, for one, was fascinated to read about football hooligans and their shenanigans as far back as the 1100s, about clan clashes, to discover the origin of ‘brawling’ (quarrelling in a church or a churchyard), to read about wife-selling (and how it often seemed to be a good option if divorce was not an option and both parties wanted out, no matter how illegal)… And yes, husband-selling also took place. Deary writes also about peasant revolts, about the machine wreckers of the Industrial Revolution era, or the many attempts on Queen Victoria’s life. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, so I won’t go into more detail, but apart from managing to cover a lot of ground, and having a knack for finding the perfect quote, Deary’s sharp wit and his talent for highlighting the connections between historical events and the present make this book a must read for those interested in crime, criminology, and UK history in general. Especially if they have a slightly twisted sense of humour.

I marked so many pages of the book that I had difficulty choosing a few to share here, but I’ll try to give you some sense of what you might expect from the book.

Here is one of his notes (they are priceless) in reference to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

Some critics interpret eating your sons, not so much as ‘cannibalism’ as ‘incest’. Whatever the legality of eating your children, just don’t try it at home.

In Chapter 2, Mediaeval History:

Peasants were at the bottom of the feudal system pyramid. And if you were at the bottom of a pyramid you’d be crushed. As if that weren’t enough, your evil lord made you work like a slave labourer; meanwhile, your Good Lord sent you something to help relieve your misery. He sent you plagues.

This reflection seemed particularly relevant to some recent events in my country.

The Seditious Meeting Act was passed in March 1817. What constituted ‘sedition’, you might ask? Well, like ‘treason’, pretty much anything the Lord Lieutenants of the counties fancied, really.

The book ends in a hopeful note, well, sort of, but not quite.

In summary, this is a great book for people interested in the history of crime and the criminal justice system (and history in general) in the UK, particularly if they enjoy a humorous and ironic take on received wisdom. I am sure fans of Deary will enjoy it as well, but, despite the cover, this is not a book for young children, and I’d advise parents to check it out to decide its suitability for themselves. The book’s back cover states that the author is working on The Peasants’ Revolting… Lives, and I’ve added it to my wish list already.

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review 2016-03-02 17:29
Book Review - Tuesday Falling
Tuesday Falling - Paul S. Williams

An impossible to put down thriller of a read about victims and revenge, and what happens when the tables are turned, making it so incredibly satisfying to read.

Absolutely brilliant!

Fast paced and easy to follow, so has a bit of a feel of Young Adult fiction to it, but not being a huge fan of YA, I still loved this, and would say it can be enjoyed by those who love adult thrillers too.

Although there is heavy subject matter covered, there was also a hint of dark humour too, so I felt the overall storyline had a good balance of serious topics mixed with humour and excitement to keep you entertained throughout.

I highly recommend this to fans of thrillers, and if you loved Normal, by Graeme Cameron, I would definitely recommend this, as it has a similar mix of dark thriller and humour to it.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1520469122
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review 2015-03-19 14:18
A romantic twist on the serial killer novel. And British.
Normal - Graeme Cameron


Thanks to Net Galley and to Harlequin Mira for providing me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Normal takes another look at the ever popular figure of the serial killer. This one is not only British, but also fairly “normal”. The author choses to use first person narration as a way of keeping the main character anonymous (no description, no personal details other than his own narration of his actions and his environment, not even a name) and of offering the readers and insight into the mind of the murderer. And this was where the problem resided for me. Of course a serial killer deserving of that name would have to appear “normal” to society at large, otherwise he would be easily spotted and stopped. But there are certain psychological characteristics that would be expected, like superficial charm, callousness, lack of empathy… All of these are present to a certain level, and even give rise to pretty humorous (in a dark humour kind of way) situations, but unravel when he seems to fall in love and becomes… an utter disaster.

From being a man who had managed to kill an undetermined number of young women, never getting caught and who had a pretty organised system, he becomes one who starts making mistakes, forgetting to bury bodies, and getting himself caught in all kinds of dangerous situations. At some point, cruelty and all, the novel becomes somewhat slapstick in its situations, and it seems that if he doesn’t get caught sooner is only down to his good luck and to the utter lack of skills of the local police (who pay dearly for their mistakes).

I wasn’t sure if the lack of psychological consistency in the character was meant to indicate a crisis (of conscience, a moral crisis) or to point out at the redeeming powers of love. The characters comments towards the end (that I won’t reveal, although the actual end is not completely closed) indicate the second option, and that stretches somewhat the limits of credibility, but maybe I’m just too cynical. As the book is a Harlequin Edition, this makes some sense, and it’s an interesting move within their line of publications.

Some reviewers have queried the lack of explanation of the motivations for the character’s actions that are only vaguely hinted at. Although that is true, the main character never seems to entertain deep reflections about himself other than in relation to his immediate plans, actions and the likely consequences of these and there doesn’t seem to be much space for biographical reflection in the way his brain works.

The character that I found intriguing is Erica who is totally unexplained and unexplainable, and in some ways I wonder how the novel would have been if she was the narrator of the story (or this had been a third person narration to allows us some insight into her).

This is a good read (if you tolerate violence, although is by far not as violent as other books on the subject), the language flows easily, and it has enough intrigue, and dark humoured moments to keep most readers of the genre happy. Being a psychiatrist (and a forensic psychiatrist at that) I wasn’t totally convinced by the psychological portrayal of the character and his behaviour in the last third of the book but I don’t think I’m the intended reader of this novel. In my opinion most readers of thrillers looking for something a bit different will enjoy it, but maybe not the hard core of the genre.

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review 2014-09-21 20:07
To recommend or not to recommend? I have no idea...
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place - Julie Berry

                      Arc provided by Mcmillan's Children Publishing Group through Netgalley

           Release Date: September 23 rd 


A very important fact that readers should know before starting reading this book:

The story is told as a complete farce. I mean..literally speaking!

(somehow that little bit, escaped me completely while requesting this story. I blame it on the pretty cover.)


So, if like me, you're more used to only having "bits of it" thrown in once in awhile, you're due for a different reading

Also..a very important question...

Do you like farces?



Conceptually speaking, this deserves a five star rating.

This is a witty, original,  intelligent, and well developed story....

So why didn't I enjoyed reading it, more than I did?


While this has its bright moments, and moments of pure witticism, I couldn't get into its rhythm...or maybe that is the problem: Its lack of rhythm, especially regarding the story's first half.


The fact that the author decided to give us some basic character information of our leading seven main characters by simply associating some traits to them, and then later on, simply vocalize a constant (and boring!) stream of adjectives to their names, was for me the story's weakest point.


I get it. Just like a farce, the author decided to give us stereotyped characters:

The witty one, the kind one, the dull one, and so on and on...

But they're seven girls, and to be given phrases such as this, right at the beginning of the story, is pushing a DNF:


Pocked Louise opened her mouth to correct Dull Martha, but Smooth Kitty shook her head slightly. Pocked Louise, the youngest of the girls, was accustomed to her older schoolmates bossing her. She kept still.
Dear Roberta covered her face with her hands.


To say that I had a really hard time with phrases such as it, would be putting it mildly. 


 By the second half of story I did however became more accustomed to this peculiar format _or maybe I just started ignoring it _ so I could start and appreciating  the writing a little more, without having to stop to figure out which character I was now reading about.


The problem with a farce _at least as far as I see this _ is that by given us these stereotyped nineteen century characters, all of the girls voices somewhat sounded the same.

Yes, their interests were all very varied, but feeling that if it weren't for the adjectives used to identify them, I wouldn't know how to proper differentiate them, was not a good feeling.


For instance, what were the chances that  seven girls with apparently so different personalities would act so blasé in the face of not one, but two murders?

Yes, I remember that this is a farce, but I can't help feeling that the only thing it managed to do _in the beginning_, was to portray the girls somewhat as sociopaths.


This was all during the infamous first part of the book.


Second half:

It got better...much better...

Although the situations couldn't be more confabulated, the girls' character started to leak through their simple given adjectives :


Poison is a woman’s weapon,” Pocked Louise told Dour Elinor.(..)
“You sound proud of it,” Elinor observed.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” Louise flipped through the pages of her notebook. “I don’t condone killing, but if killing happens anyway, then I think women go about it much more sensibly.
Leave it to men to be loud and violent and messy about the business.


So we have the smart young woman used to having her opinion discarded at home...

Then the one who is used to having her way about everything resorting to her charms...

Also, the girl who is too good for her own good..

The one that isn't all that smart...

The one who would like to go to university..

The one who rather enjoys different things..

And the one that  always seemed lacking, when compared with thinner family members...


Despite different upbringings, and ages, there's one thing all of these girls have in common:

Neither of them wants to go home...so when their headmistress and brother drop dead at the dinner's table, there's only one solution for them all:

Bury the corps, and pretend as if nothing had happened.

Which is easier said that done, since the girls will have their work cut out for them, trying to deal with numerous shady characters that will start flocking to their school as if attracted by something...


Things you may expect reading this story:

People digging graves...

Carts of manure...

Breaking and entering...

Charming young gentleman..

Charming old ex-sailors..

Marriage proposals..

Poisoned people..and animals

(don't worry the animal doesn't die!)

A little bit of flirt...

Making out....nineteen century making out!! Hand kissing!


Darling nephews..


What happens here to redeem the story for its strange "characters characterization", is that this is a very complete farce in which apparently joking; the author manages to give us an in depth  look at what it meant to be a girl in the nineteen century, and how the rest of society perceived her.


So, merit wise, this story is very well accomplished...

Do I intend to re-read it?


In a near future I don't think so. Also this was so quirky and different, that unlike what happens with most books, I don't think I will be forgetting this one so soon.

But who knows, maybe in a couple of years I will be more adept to this type of storytelling.

I cannot say that it does not have its merits.

It just wasn't for me.


Author's Official Site


Buy "The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place"


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review 2013-08-10 00:00
The Republic of Thieves
The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch

Word count: about 250 000 or something, just a rough estimate
Rating: Bouncing around like a unicorn on a pogo stick + why do you keep on hitting me in the face with a brick while I'm trying to have fun? = (yes, you've guessed it) MIND NUMBING CONCOCTION OF AWESOME AND HORRID.

I'm sorry, but there is no way to keep it brief.

First of all, it’s a long book. Yes, reading it undeniably takes a while, but I’ve very much enjoyed it in general. Don’t let the length discourage you from picking that one up! (There are bigger problems)

Most of the time I was like:

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