[Review] Alice and Freda Forever written by Alexis Coe

ARC provided by NetGalley for an honest review.

This book is unrated and only 50% completed. I’ll explain.

When this book became available on NetGalley I automatically lodged my request – “true murder” has always fascinated me and the story of a young woman, driven to murder the woman she loved in 19th century America caught my attention. Naturally, I was pleased to receive the approval email. What followed was irritation.

The book was only available via options not Kindle. The publisher stated file conversion issues, so I waited, checking back every so often to see if the issue had been resolved. A week before archive, I decided I would have to make the alternate arrangements.

It turns out, Bluefire is not user friendly, nor straight forward.

Once you download the app, register for an account with Adobe, change passwords and a few other steps, the download is finally available. The other mistake I made during this drawn out process, was doing it all on my phone. Why would this be a problem, you might wonder? It’s a problem because once the app and the book were downloaded on my phone, there seemed no way, at all, to download and share on my iPad. (Yes, I have cloud share etc turned on and yes, I wasted hours on the internet searching for the complete dummy version of file sharing. Nothing worked.) this meant I had to read it all off my phone screen. Far from enjoyable. I won’t be trying this set up ever again.

Now the book itself.

I really like Coe’s voice and style. She takes what was never going to be a boring story and creates the world in such a way you can see it. I feel as though I saw through the eyes of Alice, I feel I felt Alice’s heartbreak and her confusion and anger. Who wasn’t so intensely in love with someone at 19 they wouldn’t have suffered the same agonies or gone to the same extremes?

The part that jarred and irritated me was the use of a fancy font to signify a handwritten letter. Reading on a small screen, even when zoomed in, some of the words were lost to the swoops and curls. In terms of personal preference, indent and italics, would have served as well. For the most part, I liked the illustrations but again, would have preferred the real photos.

Please remember here, what I stated at the beginning. I only managed 50% of this book before Bluefire told me my permission for the title had expired. The real photos may well appear later in the book as may the explanation of the font and decision to use illustrations. If they appeared in the opening pages, I can only say I don’t remember and I usually don’t read the opening gambit.

When all is said and done, I will be seeking this title out at the local library and for what I’d read, the review was holding at a very respectable 4 out of 5 stars.

I look forward to reading what Alexis Coe does next.

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“Prayer” written by Philip Kerr

ARC provided free from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

1 star out of 5

Sadly, I think this novel is Mr Kerr analysing his own religious demons in a very public forum. I won’t critique this book as it takes bravery for a writer to lay themselves bare as he had.

Victorian Murderesses written by Mary S Hartman


4 out of 5 stars
ARC provided free by Netgalley in return for an honest review

The relevance of Hartman’s work has grown since originally being published in 1976. An almost unquenchable appetite for the Victorian era has evolved and been sustained by the volume of work published [good, bad and utterly terrible] in the last decade and earlier.

Refreshingly, Hartman focuses on the feminine side of murder, delving into crimes that are shocking, violent but could be pulled from contemporary headlines. Particularly striking for me was the chapter on Constance Kent. Constance Kent I was familiar with from Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (2008) but it was interesting to read Hartman’s chapter, which addressed the murder in a far more interesting way than Summerscale.

Readers who pick this book up need to know, however, that this is not a gentle introduction into Victorian murders and murder is almost a secondary history. This is not a soft read to be consumed over tea and chocolate biscuits as contextually, this book is a sociological history of women and how their roles within society, family, and history itself, has developed and evolved. The academic nature of the text is challenging but engaging and I feel this brings more to the subject and provides better insights, leading to greater understanding and hence, knowledge.

I agree with other reviewers that in part the book had large parts of conjecture but I find this complaint an easy problem to forgive as in many instances, a lot of the information required to complete a work of this nature, would not have been easily available at the time it was written. Contemporary audiences must remember that while we open up an internet browser, type our search into Google and hit enter, Hartman had to do real work. While we login to the many and various online academic databases, Hartman would have spent hours in the stacks, perhaps making long distance and international phone calls requesting photocopies or faxes of the information she required. In 1976, the Old Bailey Online was a dream no one had yet had.

I enjoyed Hartman’s book and I am grateful to Netgalley for approving me for a copy.

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