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Book Club No. 20

It's time for another Book Club post gang and this time around, it's a total mixed bag in terms of genre and my ratings! Reading has kind of taken a backseat for me recently and I really need to get out of the funk. Myself and some friends were talking about this recently and we all said that we find it *much* easier to read more when we're away from home and therefore away from other distractions such as Netflix, scrolling through our phones for hours at a time... Can some of you relate?! That being said, I did finish these two very different books over the past month and thought I'd share my opinions on them in case you're looking for a new read:

Sons of Cain - A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present | by Peter Vronsky
If you're new around here, you might not know my strong interest in serial killers and true crime. I've blogged about some of my favourite true crime books before but I'm always open to reading many more! This one came to me in the form of a Christmas present from Matt and I was intrigued from the outset. I'm aware of Peter Vronsky and his true crime/serial killer publications but this one seemed so unique as it spans the full extent of serial killing. It explores cases and recorded incidents throughout history that were not deemed as "serial killings" at the time as the phrase and definition had not yet become "a thing", but that could fit the mould now now that we know more about the term and what it defines. As a qualified archaeologist, this instantly peaked my interest as the promise of looking at historical accounts that predate the "well known" killers, as far back as the stone age, just sounded too good.

Sons of Cain does a great job of covering so many historical cases that I otherwise wouldn't have heard of (think "werewolf" reports from the 18th century and more) and also talking about the psychology behind serial killers. It talks in depth about how and why there was such a spike in serial killers in the 70s/80s and it was interesting to learn how other historical events could impact the most famous individuals we think of when we consider this topic. Although I did enjoy this book, it's not receiving a totally a 5/5 star review. A running theme I find very common in true crime writing is the author dropping their other released work all over the place. Vronsky refers to his other works quite regularly throughout the book and whilst that's absolutely fine and makes sense to do, if I find it really noticeable and it distracts me as a reader from the actual content of the book, that's when I just find it frustrating and unnecessary and unfortunately, that's level of name-dropping Vronsky hit for me. Sons of Cain is very well researched with mentions of other books or source materials throughout but I found sometimes that it went almost into too much detail. For example, if Vronsky mentions some magazines from the 60s/70s that were blamed for influencing some serial killers, he literally lists every single magazine - even if there's 30 of them - and thus I totally switched off mid-sentence more than I thought I ever would with any book. He uses quotes and information from these sources he has evidently read which again, is a positive thing but, they're very rarely paraphrased or used just to emphasise a point being made. Instead it almost comes across as if Vronsky had a certain page number to aim for and just bulked out chapters by including a two-page long quote every now and again. The quotes themselves I started to skip over because it just seemed to pull me away from the content more than it added to it so it was a bit lost on me.

One last gripe I had with the writing style was Vronsky's seemingly limited vocabulary, particularly towards the end of the book. I noticed more and more as the chapters went on that he referred to male serial killers as "male reptilian" when discussing their mindset, thought process etc. and I honestly shut the book in frustration and stopped reading for the evening on more than one occasion because of this. When you're writing a book, surely a variety of language and wording is something that you want to strive for to keep the reader engaged, not simply use your most favourite phrase to the point that it pisses off the reader, y'know? All in all, I would recommend this book despite it's few flaws in the way it is written because you are getting that unique insight into serial killers and historical accounts that are not usually mentioned in other works. You're also getting more information about the psychology behind the killers and statistics that show traits and developments in this topic area whereas I find many true crime books I've read focus on particular individual cases rather than producing general information about how those individuals are actually categorised and analysed by the police and other professionals. Sons of Cain is available for around £9.43 here

More Than This | by Patrick Ness
At this point, I wouldn't even be that surprised if a Patrick Ness book makes its way into each Book Club post for the foreseeable future because by now, y'all must know how much I love his writing. More Than This is my most recent read of his and surprise surprise, I thought it was bloody brilliant. It centres around a young teenage boy named Seth who drowns in the ocean and wakes up on an empty, abandoned street in England. He can remember the feeling of drowning, his bones breaking and the injuries he endured, but wakes up absolutely fine with no signs of the injuries he sustained and what's stranger is he drowned in America - how has he ended up in a desolate street in England? A street that seems to have seen no life for a considerable amount of time?

Seth believes that he must have woken up in hell because nothing else makes sense to him at this point. He comes to realise that he's actually back in his childhood street which he lived in with his mum, dad, and younger brother many years ago before they moved to the USA and it raises so many developing questions for him. I feel like if I say anything more at this point, it will completely give the whole plot away so instead, let me say what I liked about this book because yet again, I fell in love with Ness' writing. I read More Than This in three days and struggled to put it down. It's a very easy read (which is a bold statement for me to make as someone who is a very slow reader and who is easily distracted) and I believe Ness' fast-paced but slow revealing writing style was responsible for this. The story creates such a great sense of urgency and action needed with each page turn whilst somehow developing the characters well and giving them and the overall story and world a great level of depth. I enjoyed the fact that we jump from Seth in the present - in the "English hell" that he's woken up in - to past Seth and learn more about his life, why he drowned, his friendships and more. Ness manages to create a world in which you as the reader of Seth's journey can feel the isolation he is experiencing and the freedom of time and not having commitments in this new world he's woken up in but also desperation of needing answers and a sense of familiarity to stay sane.

The book builds so well in my opinion and took on twists and turns that I wasn't expecting and couldn't predict so it kept me on my toes from start to finish. The story escalates in the last third of the book in such a way that I found myself feeling really attached to the characters and wanted the best outcomes for each of them, no matter what was happening. There's an element of almost humour from Ness in the fact that he writes Seth as quite a sarcastic guy who seemingly predicts what's about to happen next which, almost threw me off the scent of what was actually going to happen next because Seth had already suggested that so you assume that's not what will happen but then - bam! Sometimes that's exactly what happens. You feel part of the plot as you read along as the characters are so palpable through the pages and like I said, I found myself wanting them to succeed in each of their individual stories. With the characters in mind, I laughed out loud at times due to their interactions as a group and thought that Ness does an astounding job of discussing difficult themes such as suicide, violence, abuse etc. in a way that is incredibly mature given the book's target audience. It's has incredibly sobering themes running throughout shrouded by the overall sci-fi feel and I honestly think very few authors would be able to pull of something similar.

Although I did love reading this, it's not my favourite book from Ness purely because I had some questions throughout it that aren't answered at any point or they felt a bit like a plot hole. The book ends on *such* a huge cliffhanger as well and is comes swooping so bloody fast that I was almost pissed off that I was finished the book. In an odd way, I don't totally hate that it got that reaction from me, but it does mean I'm now sat in this limbo between wanting a sequel so my many questions are answered whilst also hoping the book is left as a standalone and the mysteries it doesn't answer become the best qualities about it. If you want to read something that's incredibly gripping but easy to lose yourself in for just a few hours or days, definitely grab More Than This for as little as £6.48 here

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